Real Madrid. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

La Liga preview: Real battling injuries ahead of Celta clash

The defending La Liga champions find themselves in an unfamiliar fifth on the La Liga table after seven matches, eight points adrift of the leaders.

REAL MADRID’S TITLE challenge has taken a further hit as Jose Mourinho deals with numerous injuries heading into a clash with Celta Vigo.

The defending La Liga champions find themselves in an unfamiliar fifth on the La Liga table after seven matches, eight points adrift of leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, who are both on 19 points.

Having produced a high-quality 2-2 draw in the Clasico against Barcelona the week prior to the international break, many would see tonight’s home clash against 12th-placed Celta Vigo at the Santiago Bernabeu as something of a certainty for Mourinho’s side.

But with defenders Marcelo, Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Coentrao injured on international duty, along with forwards Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain, the match may prove more of a headache for Mourinho than first expected.

Marcelo’s injury is the worst of them with the left-back breaking his metatarsal in training for Brazil, forcing him out of the side until next year while Coentrao will miss a month with a groin problem and Arbeloa three weeks with a hamstring strain. Higuain was substituted out of Argentina’s 2-1 win over Chile with an ankle knock while Benzema limped out of France’s draw with Spain, although both forwards appear likely to play this weekend.

If Real Madrid do happen to slip-up against Celta, it gives Barcelona and Atletico the opportunity to extend their leads at the top of the table. Barcelona travel to take on struggling Deportivo La Coruna (18th) tonight as Atletico head north to play Real Sociedad (12th) in tomorrow’s late encounter.

Chasing pack

Having fallen to a dramatic 2-1 loss to Atletico in the last round – Atletico’s winner came courtesy of an injury-time own goal from Weligton – third-placed Malaga will be looking to hit back when they host Real Valladolid (eighth) on Saturday, while the other match that night will be between Valencia (14th) and Athletic Bilbao (16th) as both sides search for their third win this the campaign.

Fourth-placed Real Betis, meanwhile, will be looking to build some winning momentum as they take on the struggling Osasuna (19th) on Sunday, with Betis’ 2-0 win over Real Sociedad before the international fixtures, snapping a run of consecutive losses for the side. Mallorca (sixth) will also be looking to bounce back after losing at home in their last game when the island club travels to Sevilla for Monday night’s encounter, although the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan should be a particularly hostile place as Sevilla look to bounce back from their last-up loss to Celta Vigo.

Elsewhere, Getafe (ninth) and Levante (11th) will both be looking for their fourth wins, while Rayo Vallecano (10th) will aim to pile more misery on winless Espanyol (20th) in their clash on Sunday.

And finally Granada (15th) and Real Zaragoza (17th) will both be looking to climb clear of the relegation zone when they kick-off on Sunday afternoon.

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