MADRID, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Sunday is derby day again in the Spanish capital as Atletico and Real Madrid go head to head in the Vicente Calderon Stadium in a game which could go a long way towards deciding the final destination of the BBVA Primera Liga title.
Recent history between the two sides has been a seasaw of emotions as Atletico ended 15 years of disappointment by beating their neighbors in last year's Copa del Rey final and then following that up by inflicting Real's only home defeat this season in the Santiago Bernabeu.
Fortunes swung in Real's favor in this season's Copa del Rey as they defeated Atletico 5-0 on aggregate (3-0 in the Bernabeu and 0-2 in the Vicente Calderon) and the wind does look to be blowing Real Madrid's way again after their stunning 6-1 away win to Schalke 04 in the Champions League and Atletico's 3-0 defeat away to Osasuna on Sunday night.
That has left Atletico three points behind Real Madrid, meaning that should they win they will leapfrog their rivals in the league table, while a defeat would leave them six points behind and clutching at straws in the title race.
While the return leg in the Copa del Rey this season was virtually a none-event, fans will remember the first game as one of the dirtiest matches seen in Spain for a long time and with Atletico needing a win, a repeat of that war of attrition could well be on the cards.
Nowhere will the derby be watched more closely than in Barcelona, where and Atletico win coupled with a home victory for Barca against Almeria would see the Catalans go back to the top of the table.
Under normal circumstances Barca should brush past their rivals, but it has been a difficult week in the wake of last Saturday's defeat in San Sebastian, with speculation over the future of coach, Tata Martino included.
Martino is suspended for the Almeria game, but his side needs to produce a comfortable win in order to steady a ship which is in severe danger of capsizing.
A lot of attention will be on Athletic Club Bilbao midfielder, Mikel Rico on Friday night as he faces former club, Granada in San Mames. Fourth placed Athletic have looked slightly leggy on their last two games, but have a four point lead over nearest rivals Villarreal and Real Sociedad, who are at home to bottom of the table, Betis and away to Sevilla.
The Sevilla-Real Sociedad match promises to be a tight affair, with Real Sociedad in confident mood after beating Barca a week ago, while Sevilla got back to winning ways, but were far from convincing away to Rayo Vallecano.
Rayo are starting to look doomed to the drop along with Betis, but Paco Jemez's side can always be relied on to give everything, although that might not be enough against an improving Valencia, who have European ambitions following their recent recovery.
Saturday could be interesting in the 'sack race' - the race no coach wants to win as Malaga entertain Valladolid with Malaga's Bernd Schuster and Valladolid's Juan Ignacio Martinez both under pressure. It could be no exaggeration to say that the loser could well lose his job.
Defeat for Getafe at home to Espanyol could also end Luis Garcia's reign in the south of Madrid.
Meanwhile the weekend's other matches see Levante entertain Osasuna, if entertain is the right word for what promises to be a tight physical affair, and Elche look for three points at home to an improving Celta Vigo.