Real Madrid can pull within a point of faltering La Liga leaders Barcelona with victory at Getafe on Saturday.
Barca’s sudden and unexpected dip in form has seen the Catalans fail to register a win in three league fixtures, allowing chasing duo Atletico Madrid and Real to close in.
Luis Enrique’s men looked to be coasting to the defence of their title, but back-to-back league defeats – against Madrid and Real Sociedad – have checked their momentum.
Madrid, by contrast, are on a six-match winning run in La Liga since losing to city rivals Atleti in February, and overcame a 2-0 first-leg deficit to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League at the expense of Wolfsburg on Tuesday, with Cristiano Ronaldo netting a hat-trick.
Barca, who host Valencia on Sunday, were dumped out of Europe by Atleti a day later to further add to their recent troubles, and Madrid will hope to turn up the heat at struggling Getafe.
Madrid have won 13 of their last 14 top-flight meetings with Getafe, who are without a win in 12 league matches and sacked coach Fran Escriba this week.
And there will be a familiar face in the opposite dugout at Coliseum Alfonso Perez, with former Madrid striker Juan Esnaider having taken the reins following Escriba’s departure.
Esnaider, who also played for Atleti and Juventus, had two brief spells at Madrid in the 1990s and is charged with hauling Getafe – currently two points from safety – out of the relegation zone in the remaining six matches of the season.
“The most important thing is that the coach comes with enthusiasm and excitement,” said midfielder Juan Rodriguez of Esnaider, who previously served as assistant under Michel at Getafe.
“We have to adapt quickly to what he asks. He is a football man and now that everything is positive we work for the game against Madrid.
“The team was blocked mentally. A victory is needed to see everything differently. The club has decided to change and we’re all hoping that is the way to get results.
“Madrid has tremendous potential. They don’t have a weak point. We have our abilities and a template that has the capacity to hurt anyone at our own ground, where we are feeling comfortable.”
Madrid are not thought to have any fresh injury concerns and included Martin Odegaard, Enzo Fernandez and Marcos Llorente in training for the derby fixture.
Key Opta stats:
– Getafe have gone 11 Madrid derbies without a win in La Liga (D1 L10).
– Getafe have gone 12 league games in a row without a win, and nine of them without scoring – their second-longest dry spell in La Liga (15 in 2014).
– Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 19 goals against Getafe in La Liga, at least seven more than any other player (Lionel Messi and David Villa, 12 apiece).
– Real Madrid have scored the most goals in the Top 5 European Leagues this season (93).
– No side has scored fewer goals than Getafe in La Liga this season (28, as many as Levante).
– James Rodriguez has scored three of his seven free kicks in La Liga (42.86 per cent), which is the highest rate for any player since last season (more than five attempts).