Real Madrid defends its league lead against Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona welcomes Rayo Vallecano


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MADRID — Athletic Bilbao's challenge, as usual, will be to stop Cristiano Ronaldo.

Only a few days after reaching the Copa del Rey final, Athletic will host Real Madrid and the Portugal winger on Saturday in the Spanish league.

Ronaldo has scored 39 goals in 36 games this season, including the team's lone goal in a 1-1 draw against Villarreal last weekend.

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has said that, barring unforeseen injuries, Ronaldo will be accompanied up front by Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, making up Madrid's most powerful attacking lineup.

Barcelona, which also reached the Copa del Rey final, hosts Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, while Atletico Madrid hosts Valencia.

Here are some things to know about this weekend's matches:


Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has relied heavily on France striker Antoine Griezmann, having played him in 38 out of the team's 40 games this season.

However, the France striker is suspended for the match against Valencia at the Vicente Calderon Stadium because of yellow card accumulation.

Atletico is third in the standings, one point ahead of fourth-place Valencia. But Atletico has failed to win either of the games that Griezmann didn't play in.


Bale arrived at Real Madrid for a world-record fee of $132 million, but the Wales midfielder hasn't found the back of the net in five matches.

The former Tottenham player has scored 14 goals in 35 games this season.


Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets was taken off the field on a stretcher on Wednesday during the team's 3-1 win over Villarreal, ruling him out of Sunday's match.

Tomas Pina twisted Busquets' ankle badly when he accidentally landed on it in while making a pass.

On Thursday, the team said medical tests had confirmed that the Spain midfielder had sustained a high ankle sprain and would miss the match against Rayo.


Madrid's once-crowded sickbay is about to empty.

Germany midfielder Sami Khedira, who injured left leg muscles during Madrid's 4-0 loss to Atletico, is fully fit and training.

Other players who joined him on the field at Madrid's Valdebebas training ground are defender Sergio Ramos, striker Karim Benzema and Colombia midfielder James Rodriguez.

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