Madrid Derby: The fight for second spot

The Madrid derby between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid promises to be an exciting tie, as both sides vie for the second spot and bragging rights.

Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo   -  Getty Images

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are too far adrift to catch runaway leader Barcelona and are neither in any danger of slipping out of the Champions League spots. However, Sunday's Madrid derby, promises to be a humdinger of a contest as both sides fight for the second spot, and, bragging rights.

Atletico is currently second with a four-point advantage but Real comes into the tie high on momentum, having won 11 out of its last 12 games, a streak that includes two wins over Paris Saint-Germain and Tuesday's thumping of Juventus in the Champions League.

READ: Ronaldo magic puts Real Madrid in command

Cristiano Ronaldo was the star in Turin, his spectacular bicycle kick continuing the Portuguese's astonishing goal flurry this year. He has scored 23 times in 14 games, and at least once in all of his last nine. Ronaldo also has six goals in his last five meetings with Atletico.

The return of Costa

Meanwhile, Diego Costa will walk out for his seventh Madrid derby in La Liga on Sunday, four seasons since his last at the Santiago Bernabeu when he scored Atletico's winner.

Interestingly, Costa's goal in that game, which he guided past Diego Lopez and inside the far right-hand post, still remains his only goal against Real, and the 1-0 win his sole triumph against Atletico's fiercest rivals.

Barcelona's players will be able to watch the derby safe in the knowledge that any result strengthens their grip on the title. The Catalans host 14th-placed Leganes on Saturday, already nine points ahead of Atletico and 13 in front of Real.

If Barca avoids defeat, Ernesto Valverde's team will equal the Spanish record of 38 unbeaten league matches, set by Real Sociedad across two seasons in 1978/79 and 1979/80.

Another bicycle kick in the offing?

Just four days after stunning Juventus, the 33-year-old Ronaldo executed another overhead kick to perfection in training as Madrid prepared for the derby clash.

Elsewhere, the league's four bottom sides go head-to-head as Levante, with a seven-point cushion over the relegation places, host 18th-placed Las Palmas. On Friday, Deportivo La Coruna are at home to already-doomed Malaga.

ALSO READ: Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid: The derby fuelling Spain's World Cup hopes

The race for Europa Legue qualification also continues on Saturday as Sevilla travel to Celta Vigo and Real Betis entertain Eibar. Villarreal face Athletic Bilbao on Monday.

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