MADRID. — Cristiano Ronaldo insists Real Madrid can still catch Spanish La Liga soccer leaders Barcelona if they can overcome their hoodoo against Atletico Madrid today.
Real trail Atletico by a point and are nine adrift of Barca with just 13 games remaining, but can move up to second place should they beat Diego Simeone’s men for the first time in six league games.
“It is a game we need to win,” Ronaldo told Madrid’s website.
“It is an important game at home, in front of our fans and against a very strong team that defends well.
“We know that (winning) La Liga will be difficult, but we need to fight until the end. Football is a box full of surprises and anything can happen.”
Real are expected to once again be without Gareth Bale as the calf injury that was initially expected to keep the Welsh star out for three weeks in mid-January drags on.
Karim Benzema is likely to return having missed the 1-1 draw at Malaga last weekend, whilst James Rodriguez could start after being left on the bench by Zinedine Zidane at La Rosaleda.
Zidane’s record at the Bernabeu since taking over has been impeccable with four wins and 20 goals from four games.
However, Atletico’s rock-solid defence will pose a much more difficult obstacle to break down.
Simeone’s men recorded their 24th clean sheet in 38 games this season in a 0-0 draw at PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League in midweek.
However, goals at the other end of the field has been the major problem for Atletico with just one in their last three games.
“The goal will come. We need to keep going and, if we have to be patient, I’ll be the first to wait,” said Simeone.
Stefan Savic misses out through injury, so Jose Maria Gimenez will come into the Atletico defence.
Meanwhile, Fernando Torres is likely to earn a recall to the starting line-up unless Yannick Carrasco recovers in time from an ankle ligament injury.
Barca can maintain their stranglehold on the title race when Sevilla visit the Camp Nou tomorrow.
Today: Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid (5pm), Getafe v Celta Vigo, Sporting Gijon v Espanyol (both 7:15pm), Real Betis v Rayo Vallecano (9:30pm), Real Sociedad v Malaga (11:05pm)
Tomorrow: Villarreal v Levante (1pm), Valencia v Athletic Bilbao (5pm), Deportivo a Coruna v Granada (7:15pm), Barcelona v Sevilla (9:30pm)