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La Liga Preview: Atletico Madrid

Countdown about an hour ago
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Hernandez: Jimenez transitioning well

Mexico 19 hours ago
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Tomas: An encouraging summer

Barcelona 19 hours ago
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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Mar 13, 2014

Diego Lopez: Clasico is key in title race

After Barcelona's 1-0 loss to Real Valladolid, ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno and Steve Nicol give their take on who will win La Liga.

Diego Lopez has told Marca that Real Madrid are targeting the upcoming 'clasico' Primera Division clash with Barcelona as an opportunity to open up a potentially decisive seven-point lead over their Catalan rivals.

Diego Lopez doesn't want to leave Real Madrid this summer
Diego Lopez has played in every Liga game for Real Madrid this season, making 27 appearances.

• Train: Courtois to Real?
• Rigg: Madrid on song

Los Blancos have taken control of the title race in recent weeks, and now sit three points ahead of city rivals Atletico Madrid and four ahead of defending champions Barca -- whose domestic woes continued with the 1-0 defeat at Valladolid last weekend.

The former Villarreal and Sevilla goalkeeper believes that the game at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on March 23 could be huge moment in deciding the championship -- but the 32-year-old also expects a battle to the finish line with their rivals.

"They are three very important points," Lopez said. "Barcelona is a direct rival and we can extend the gap with them, but there is still a game before.

"We have to win in Malaga, keep the gap at four points with Barcelona and then grow it to seven.

"We must go from game to game in the three competitions -- that has been going well for us, and will go well for us. Atletico are very strong and Barca, whatever they say, will be in there until the end."

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has received positive fitness news ahead of the trip to Malaga, with Karim Benzema, Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane -- all withdrawn with knocks during Sunday's 3-0 win over Levante at the Bernabeu -- all back in training on Wednesday, according to the club's website.

Centre-back Sergio Ramos missed the group session with a minor back issue, but with the Spain international anyway suspended for the weekend's game, Pepe is likely to return alongside Varane at the back.

Another potential change could see Isco come into midfield for Angel Di Maria, who said after the Levante game that he would prefer to sit this one out to ensure he did not pick up a booking which would rule him out of the 'clasico'.

Youngsters Asier Illarramendi and Jese Rodriguez are also options for Ancelotti, who also has next Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second-leg at home to Schalke to plan for -- though Real are 6-1 up after the first leg.

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