Marcelo: All our games are finals now

Having looked to be a foregone conclusion just a few weeks ago, suddenly the Liga title race is very much on thanks to a combination of Barca's slump and both Madrid clubs hitting form just at the right time.

Marcelo - cropped

"We've grown a lot in this final part of the season and our objective was to close the gap at the top, and now we are very close," said the Brazilian.

Marcelo has urged Real Madrid to keep up the pressure on Barcelona and Atletico Madrid by winning another "final" against Villarreal on Wednesday.

Having looked to be a foregone conclusion just a few weeks ago, suddenly the Liga title race is very much on thanks to a combination of Barca's slump and both Madrid clubs hitting form just at the right time.

Champions Barca have lost its last three Liga games, its worst run since October 2003, allowing Atletico to draw level with them on 76 points with Real lurking just one point further back.

Saturday's 5-1 demolition of Getafe was Real's seventh consecutive league victory, a run that includes its dramatic Clasico win at Camp Nou earlier this month.

Ronaldo steps up

Zinedine Zidane's team are also into the last four of the Champions League thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired comeback against Wolfsburg in the quarterfinals and, if results go its way in this upcoming round of midweek league fixtures, could find themselves top of the table with just four matches remaining.

Full-back Marcelo believes Real is reaping the rewards of its work in the closing stages of the season, and has called on them to reel off an eighth Liga win on the bounce against fourth-placed Villarreal.

"We've grown a lot in this final part of the season and our objective was to close the gap at the top, and now we are very close," said the Brazilian.

"We try and perform at the top level in all the championships we're involved in. There are no easy games now, they are all finals and we'll keep this up until the end.

"People lose hope, but our fans have been with us so far and they always will be. We've been criticised, but we've continued working and fighting and now we're just one point away.

"Madrid has always had this strength and will to fight. Real Madrid always battle and we don't let our heads drop."

European ambitions

Like Real, Villarreal also has a continental semifinal on the horizon, with Liverpool awaiting it in the last four of the Europa League.

Sunday's 2-1 reverse at Rayo Vallecano ended a run of four-straight wins in all competitions.

But while coach Marcelino was disappointed to come away from Vallecas with nothing, he still found time to praise his team's efforts, with the game coming just three days after its 4-2 Europa League victory at Sparta Prague.

"We weren't in the best state, but we can't make excuses because of that. We knew that Rayo makes you work hard and eventually they went ahead," he said.

"We could have taken a big step, but in football goals have the final say. We should have done more up front to get us the win. We lacked mobility and getting numbers forward to participate in the attack.

"[But] the team shouldn't blame themselves at all but praise themselves for their attitude."