La Liga preview: Pressure eases on Zinedine Zidane as Real head into Madrid derby battle

Los Blancos come through Champions League test while Barca back in spotlight after Juve buttering

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LA LIGA FIXTURES

Friday Valladolid v Osasuna (Kick-off midnight UAE)

Saturday Valencia v Athletic Bilbao (5pm), Getafe v Sevilla (7.15pm), Huesca v Alaves (9.30pm), Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid (midnight)

Sunday Real Sociedad v Eibar (5pm), Real Betis v Villarreal (7.15pm), Elche v Granada (9.30pm), Barcelona v Levante (midnight)

Monday Celta Vigo v Cadiz (midnight)

Real Madrid, having avoided a disastrous Champions League exit, face city rivals Atletico on Saturday looking suddenly well-equipped to ruin their unbeaten run.

Karim Benzema scored twice against Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday to end any fears that Real would fail to progress to the group stage after they had started the match with their hopes in the balance.

With Sergio Ramos back to lead the defence and Benzema clinical in front of goal, Real eventually went through as group winners with a comfortable 2-0 victory meaning they will avoid many of the big guns in the last 16 draw.

Manager Zinedine Zidane, whose job has been the subject of speculation after a turbulent start to the season, seems safe for now.

"This was the objective: to finish first," the Frenchman said. "We played a spectacular game, from the first minute to the last. We interpreted the game really well.

"I think this was the most complete game of the season. I've been a player and it's impossible to play like this all the time. We try to, but every now and then."

Atletico, who lead La Liga by a single point from the season's surprise package, Real Sociedad, also booked their ticket to the Champions League knockout stage with a composed 2-0 win against RB Salzburg in Austria.

Diego Simeone's side go into the last-16 draw as Group A runners-up behind reigning champions Bayern Munich.

Belgian international Yannick Carrasco returned from injury to score Atletico's second goal against Salzburg with a deft volley from Angel Correa's cross four minutes from time.

Simeone said after the Salzburg victory that he was becoming a key weapon for Atletico: "In the second half he was fantastic, his rhythm, his work-rate, he needs to carry on like that ... when he's playing at that level he is an important player and gives the team something different."

While the city derby – albeit without the fervent crowd such a game normally attracts to the Bernabeu – will dominate headlines on Saturday, Barcelona's match against Levante on Sunday will also come under intense scrutiny.

Barca are in such disarray that they need a victory merely to steady the ship after a morale-sapping 3-0 defeat to Juventus in the Champions League.

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Juve v Barca player ratings

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The Catalans still qualified for the last 16, but as group runners-up Lionel Messi and his teammates risk drawing one of Europe's big names.

After the tumultuous summer which almost saw Messi depart, Barca and new manager Ronald Koeman never seem to have recovered. They sit ninth in the table with just 14 points from 10 games.

Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen said a win against modest Levante, who have just three points fewer than the Catalans, was essential.

“Now we have to concentrate on the league, which is the most important thing, " he said. "We have to try to get the maximum points possible.

"We’re not where we want to be in the league but we still have games to play, and we have the chance to recover some points. That’s the goal for these coming weeks.”

"We're playing at home and we can't afford to drop a single point now."

Meanwhile, Catalan businessman Jordi Farre -– among the candidates to replace Josep Maria Bartomeu as president in next month's election, alongside Victor Font, Joan Laporta, Toni Freixa and Lluis Fernandez – has promised to tie the unsettled Lionel Messi down to a new contract if he is voted in.

Farre said: "If we win the elections in January, Leo will renew his contract on the 25th.

"He is the best player in the history of football and we have to offer him an exciting project.

"We will be capable of motivating him and, the day after becoming president, I hope to have him renewed."

LA LIGA FIXTURES

Friday Valladolid v Osasuna (Kick-off midnight UAE)

Saturday Valencia v Athletic Bilbao (5pm), Getafe v Sevilla (7.15pm), Huesca v Alaves (9.30pm), Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid (midnight)

Sunday Real Sociedad v Eibar (5pm), Real Betis v Villarreal (7.15pm), Elche v Granada (9.30pm), Barcelona v Levante (midnight)

Monday Celta Vigo v Cadiz (midnight)

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