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La Liga preview: Real hope to fight back in title race

Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas has not given up hope of defending their La Liga crown ahead of Sunday’s match against Real Sociedad.

With a quiet festive period over, Jose Mourinho’s men return to action against Sociedad, who are unbeaten in eight league matches.

The reigning champions are 16 points adrift of leaders and arch-rivals Barcelona after 17 games but Casillas is entering the New Year with a positive frame of mind.

“When things don’t go well, it means we are low on morale,” he said.

“The players have to be wanting more and cannot be sad. Our goal is to remain ambitious. The day I have no ambition left is the day that I will not be sitting here.

“We are 16 points off the pace, it’s not what we wanted but 2013 has arrived, and, as I said last week, what we have to do is try to cut the deficit.

“I know the situation is difficult but it’s not impossible.”

Despite Real’s disappointing form to date, the Madrid-based outfit have not lost to Sociedad in the past 11 clashes with the club.

Meanwhile, Barcelona will welcome lowly Espanyol to the Nou Camp on Sunday, aiming to maintain their undefeated campaign.

Barca have recorded 16 victories and one draw, helping them move nine points clear at the summit.

Tito Vilanova’s men have also scored a league-high 57 goals, thanks to the majestic Lionel Messi, who has led the way with 26.

Their opponents Espanyol, however, have endured a difficult start to the season and occupy the final relegation spot on goal difference.

In other fixtures across the weekend, second-placed Atletico Madrid travel to Mallorca on Sunday looking to end their two-game losing streak away from home.

High-flying Malaga, who sit two points behind Real in fourth position, make the trip to basement side Deportivo La Coruna, Levante entertain last season’s Copa del Rey finalists Athletic Bilbao and Real Zaragoza will look to snap a two-match losing run on home soil when Real Betis take to the field on Friday.

Ernesto Valverde’s Valencia will clash with Granada, while Sevilla and Osasuna face off in a battle of the league’s strugglers.

Promoted Celta de Vigo – outside of the drop zone on goal difference – will look to open 2013 with a bang when they host Real Valladolid and Getafe meet Real Vallecano in a mid-table encounter.

Thu 3 Jan, 2013
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