Madrid looking to discover form
A look ahead to the weekend's action in the Spanish Primera Division, including Real Madrid's clash with Sevilla.
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Real Madrid will be looking for a morale-boosting victory over Sevilla this weekend as they embark on a month of fixtures which could make-or-break their season.
Last weekend's 1-0 defeat to Granada was Madrid's fifth in La Liga this season - they only lost twice in winning the championship last term - and left them 16 points adrift of pacesetters Barcelona.
A successful title defence may now be beyond them, but Madrid still have plenty to play for this campaign and they cannot afford to dwell on their latest setback with crunch matches now about to come thick and fast.
After Saturday's visit of improving Sevilla, Jose Mourinho's men have a three-week spell when they face Manchester United twice in the last 16 of the Champions League, Barcelona in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-finals, plus a league clash with the Catalan side.
They also face a Madrid derby against Rayo Vallecano in that time and a trip to Deportivo La Coruna - a fixture they have only won once in 20 years.
It is a crucial period for the Spanish giants and at the end of it things should look a lot clearer about what Mourinho's men can hope to achieve this season.
Cristiano Ronaldo has not given up on any trophy yet though, telling the official UEFA Champions League magazine: "We haven't been doing so well in the league, but I think the team has been doing better recently.
"We are still competing in the Champions League and in the Spanish Cup. We are a bit far behind the top teams in the league, but we still have a chance, maybe a bit less in the league, but in the two other competitions, and we'll keep on fighting to win."
This weekend Madrid host a Sevilla side who have lost just once in six matches under new coach Unai Emery, winning three.
In Sunday's early match, Barca take on Getafe at the Nou Camp where they will try to build on their nine-point lead over second-placed Atletico Madrid, who face local rivals Rayo later in the day.
Barca have won only twice in their last six competitive matches, but defender Jordi Alba is in confident mood heading into what will also be a big month for them.
"We've got a very intense February, with very tough games, but we have to maintain our intensity in every competition," he said.
"I think the team is capable of that. We must take it game by game, competition by competition, and try to win every match."
The race for the final Champions League berth is hotting up with just three points separating fourth-placed Malaga from Levante in ninth.
Those two clubs clash this weekend, while sixth-placed Valencia travel to relegation-battling Celta Vigo and eighth-placed Real Sociedad go to Real Zaragoza.
Real Betis, who have dropped to fifth after taking just one point from their last three games, host Real Valladolid in Monday evening's match.
There are two big fixtures in the relegation dogfight this weekend with Deportivo hosting Granada and Osasuna going to Real Mallorca - all four clubs currently lying in the bottom five.
Also, improving Espanyol go to Athletic Bilbao.