La Liga leaders Real Madrid, despite losing only one league match this season, have been unable to fully capitalize on the recent struggles of their arch rival, the defending champion FC Barcelona, who scraped out a hard-fought win over third-place Getafe on Saturday. Los Blancos will now cap off the Spanish weekend slate with a Sunday night showdown against lowly Celta de Vigo, absolutely needing a win to open up some space at the top.
But the 18th-place side head into the capital city feeling at least some sense of momentum, coming off a significant upset over fifth-place Sevilla last weekend -- a dramatic win on a stoppage time goal from Pione Sisto that ended an eight-match La Liga winless streak for the Celestes. A second straight major upset would lift Celta out of the relegation zone, and could also allow Barca to jump ahead of Real Madrid at the top.
The arch-rivals are now level on points at 52, with Real Madrid holding the lead with a goal differential that is better by just two. But with only 14 goals allowed in 23 games, the Madrid side boasts the league's top defensive record, according to a Sports Mole report, while their opponents have let in 32 while scoring only 19.
In addition to their already obvious advantage, Real Madrid appear likely to see the return of their prize summer signing, Belgian striker Eden Hazard. He has reportedly closed in on full fitness after sitting out three months with an injury and appearing in only eight matches for Los Blancos so far.
With Welsh fullback Gareth Bale also likely to return from a brief injury, the league leaders could hardly be favored more heavily in Sunday's showdown. According to betting lines from the legal Caesars Palace sports book, and published by Bleacher Report, while the odds of Real Madrid winning are set at 27-100 (meaning that every $3.70 wagered would pay back only $1), the odds against a Celta victory are a startling 47-5.
In other words, each dollar bet would pay off $9.40 in the rather unlikely event of an upset by the visiting side. Odds of the game ending in a draw have been set at 5-1.
Nonetheless, Celta de Vigo may draw at least some hope, not only from their win over Sevilla last weekend, but also from the fact that in Real Madrid's most recent home match, they were unceremoniously bounced from the Copa del Rey at the quarterfinal stage by Real Sociedad, per Goal.com.
The Real Madrid vs. Celta de Vigo match is scheduled to get underway at 9 p.m. Central European Time on Sunday night. The Qatar-based cable network BeIn Sports will broadcast the game in the United States, with a start time of 3 p.m. EST, noon PST.