Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso believes his side still have every chance of claiming the La Liga title this year despite falling into third place with just seven games remaining.
Los Blancos’ city rivals Atletico Madrid lead the way on 76 points, one ahead of Barcelona in second with Real a further two points behind the Catalans.
Things are further complicated for Carlo Ancelotti’s men because they have an inferior head-to-head record against both Atletico and Barca meaning they can’t afford to even finish level on points with either of their title rivals.
Two defeats in consecutive games to Barcelona and Sevilla last month have cost Real dearly, but they have bounced back with two comprehensive wins over Rayo Vallecano and Borussia Dortmund and Alonso is hoping there will be more surprises to come in the final few weeks of the season.
“The teams that beat us were in great form, we didn’t play well in two games and we committed errors that we paid very heavily for,” he said.
“In the league we have lost the advantage that we had, but we need to keep fighting because there could be surprises.”
Madrid face arguably their most difficult league game remaining this season when they travel to face Champions League chasing Real Sociedad on Saturday and, as a former Sociedad player, Alonso knows what to expect in San Sebastian.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be rested for Saturday’s match to give him time to recuperate and shake off a knee problem.
Ronaldo, who has scored 28 goals in La Liga this season, has been complaining of discomfort in his left knee in recent weeks and has played on while receiving treatment from Real’s medical staff. The Portugal captain limped off near the end of Wednesday’s Champions League quarterfinal against Borussia Dortmund, which Real won 3-0.
Atletico Madrid and Barcelona have more serious injury problems to overcome as they host Villarreal and Real Betis respectively on Saturday.
Barca defender Gerard Pique will be out for four weeks after suffering a hairline fracture in his right hip during the Catalans 1-1 draw against Atletico in their Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday. Atletico’s top scorer Diego Costa will be also sidelined this weekend due to a hamstring problem he picked up against Barca, despite the injury not being as serious as first feared.