February 3, 2017 - 2:34pm
A refreshed Real Madrid face Celta Vigo on Sunday less than two weeks after they were eliminated from the King's Cup by the Galician club.
This time the La Liga leaders hope their Vigo visit will result in a win and keep them ahead of Barcelona and Sevilla, who host Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal respectively.
Real's closest rivals dropped points last weekend while Real bounced back from their 4-3 aggregate loss to Celta in the King's Cup quarter-finals with a home win over Real Sociedad.
"We're having a good season despite having been knocked out of the King's Cup," Real midfielder Mateo Kovacic said.
Real, who also have a game in hand on their title rivals, have not had the distraction of a Cup game in midweek, whereas defending La Liga champions Barca and Celta have.
"We've got to make the most of the fact that we've got a fortnight with no midweek games," Kovacic said on the club's website. "This will be good as it allows us to work on things and be fresher for the La Liga games."
Portuguese defender Pepe and Colombian winger James Rodriguez, out since early January, are expected to return on Sunday with both having recovered from respective calf injuries.
And Croatian midfielder Luca Modric, who has missed the last two games with a hamstring problem, trained on Thursday.
Celta are eighth in La Liga and have lost just three league games at home this season, the last a 3-0 defeat to Sevilla.
Barcelona, who drew 1-1 at Real Betis on Sunday, moved into second place behind Real after Sevilla lost 3-1 to Espanyol. Barca and Sevilla head into this weekend level on 42 points.
Barcelona, still without injured midfielders Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, go into Saturday's encounter on the back of a 2-1 win at Atletico in their King's Cup semifinal first leg after goals from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.
Argentinian midfielder Walter Montoya could make his league debut for Sevilla against Villarreal on Sunday after joining the Andalusian club from Rosario Central this week.
Sevilla have won eight and lost just one of their nine league games at their Sanchez Pizjuan stadium this season.