Real Madrid faces Elche as fixture congestion takes toll on rivals

Real returned from Saudi Arabia as Spanish Super Cup champions after beating Athletic Bilbao 2-0 in the final on Sunday and rival Barcelona in the last four.

Real Madrid will face Elche on Sunday in the league, its fourth game in eleven days, as it looks to extend its lead at the top of the table.

Real Madrid has survived unscathed from a brutal schedule of fixtures and travels as its rival stumbled and will look to consolidate its dominance at the top of La Liga with victory over Elche on Sunday.

Real returned from Saudi Arabia as Spanish Super Cup champions after beating Athletic Bilbao 2-0 in the final on Sunday and rival Barcelona in the last four.

It then reached the Copa del Rey quarter-finals after fighting back from going a goal down in extra-time to beat 10-man to beat Elche 2-1 on Thursday.

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It will face the same opponents on Sunday in the league, its fourth game in eleven days, as it looks to extend its lead at the top of the table.

"What do you want me to say? There is a calendar which is absolute nonsense," coach Carlo Ancelotti told reporters in Elche on Thursday.

Second-placed Sevilla, which trails Madrid by four points, had a game in hand but wasted a golden opportunity to close in on the leader as it was held to a 1-1 draw at Valencia on Wednesday in a match they dominated.

They moved on to 45 points from 21 games, eight ahead of their bitter local rivals Real Betis in third, who knocked them out of the Copa del Rey with a 2-1 win last weekend.

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Sevilla will host Celta Vigo on Saturday as they try to stay in the hunt for the title.

While the trip to Saudi Arabia failed to knock Real Madrid off its stride, the Super Cup's losing semi-finalists Barcelona and Atletico Madrid both suffered Copa del Rey defeats on their return.

La Liga champion Atletico is in a slump and pressure is mounting on its manager Diego Simeone after two disappointing losses in less than a week.

It fell 2-1 to Athletic Bilbao in Saudi Arabia and on Wednesday it was outplayed by Real Sociedad, losing 2-0 in its last-16 cup clash in San Sebastian.

It is fourth in the La Liga standings, 16 points behind leader Real Madrid and will host improving Valencia on Saturday.

The situation at Barcelona appears even worse.

After losing 3-2 against rival Real Madrid in the Super Cup, the Copa del Rey champion was knocked out of the competition after suffering a 3-2 defeat after extra time at Athletic Bilbao on Thursday to continue its difficult season.

Having exited the Champions League in the group stage, Barca is sixth in La Liga with 32 points from 20 games, 17 behind Real.

The bad news keeps coming for Barca as one of its most promising players, Ansu Fati, suffered the recurrence of a thigh injury against Bilbao and could be set for an extensive spell on the sidelines.

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