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Real Madrid vs Girona big game in La Liga

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Real Madrid players sighted at their training grounds in preparation to face Girona

MADRID | Xinhua | Real Madrid’s home game against second-placed Girona today looks as if it could be decisive to the outcome of La Liga, with both sides going into the encounter missing key players.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti will have to totally reconstruct a defense affected by the long-term injuries to David Alaba and Eder Militao, and with their replacements Antonio Rudiger and Nacho Fernandez both major doubts with muscle injuries.

Aurelien Tchouameni is back after suspension and will almost certainly step into central defense, but Dani Carvajal, who did the job last week at home to Atletico Madrid, showed he lacks the height to play in that role. Carvajal will suffer against Girona forward Artem Dovbyk, who has recovered after missing his side’s 0-0 draw at home to Real Sociedad.

Vinicius Jr is also a doubt for Ancelotti, who is unlikely to take many risks with the return of the UEFA Champions League next week.

Girona coach Michel Sanchez is suspended after being sent off last week, while Yangel Herrera and Daley Blind also miss out after being shown late yellow cards that saw them complete a cycle of bookings.

The round of games begins on Friday when former Real Betis striker Juanmi could make his debut for Cadiz against his former club, as the relegation-threatened outfit looks to end a run of 18 games without a win.

Alaves looks to return to winning ways after their home defeat against Barcelona and will fancy their chances against Villarreal, who saw January signing Eric Bailly added to an already long injury list containing players such as Yeremy Pino, Juan Foyth and Dani Parejo.

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Today’s games end with Valencia continuing their efforts to qualify for Europe next season with a difficult visit to Las Palmas. Valencia winger Sergi Canos should return for what looks like a well-balanced match.

FC Barcelona should have few problems in continuing their recovery at home to Granada. The visitors are rooted second from bottom of the table, with one point from the last 12 and just two wins all season. Although Barcelona is being affected by rumors over the futures of several key players, among them Frenkie de Jong and Ronald Araujo, the return of Pedri to their midfield has given them more spark in attack.

Inigo Martinez could return to the Barca defense and Marc-Andre ter Stegen is back in goal after over two months out, but Joao Felix, Raphinha and Ferran Torres remain sidelined though injury.

Atletico Madrid has to put Wednesday’s Copa del Rey semifinal first-leg defeat to Athletic Bilbao and a packed fixture calendar behind them for a visit to Sevilla that is important for both sides, as Sevilla looks to build on their win away to Rayo Vallecano on Monday and escape the danger zone, while Atletico needs a win to stay in the top-four.

Rayo Vallecano travels to Mallorca with both sides in trouble, with Rayo desperate to end a five-game winless run, while Mallorca finds themselves just three points above the relegation zone.

The round of matches ends on Monday with Almeria still looking for their first win of the season at home to fifth-placed Athletic Bilbao, who will make changes after Wednesday’s Copa del Rey win. ■

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