Congested April will prove decisive in Primera Liga title race.
Spanish football returns after the international break, with Barcelona and Real Madrid facing a staggering nine games in April.
They will play each other on Sunday April 23 at the Bernabeu. Madrid head the table by two points with 11 games left and have a game in hand over Barcelona, but while the Madrid-supporting newspaper Marca thinks they have an 81 per cent chance of winning the title, there are likely to be several more twists in this title race.
Barca, who lost their last away match at Deportivo La Coruna, face some tough games after they meet second-bottom club Granada on Sunday, who only lost 1-0 at Camp Nou in October.
Barca play Sevilla at home next Wednesday, then Malaga away before a Uefa Champions League last-eight first leg at Juventus.
The Catalans’ next game after the trip to Turin is at Real Madrid before they face doomed Osasuna at home on April 26 and then play in the Catalan derby at Espanyol four days later.
It is an unforgiving schedule, but Real Madrid do not have an easy run either.
Madrid are at home to Alaves this Sunday before they play at struggling neighbours Leganes next Wednesday. Then things get tough. Zinedine Zidane’s side play Atletico Madrid on April 8, then they are away at Bayern Munich four days later in the Champions League before another away game at a Sporting Gijon, who held them in the equivalent fixture last term.
Following that, it is the Bayern Munich return leg followed by Barcelona at home and away to Deportivo La Coruna, rejuvenated under new manager Pepe Mel. In their ninth game of April, Madrid entertain Valencia, who beat them 2-1 in February.
It is going to be tough for both sides where both sets of fans would only consider a Primera Liga title or a Champions League crown as being a successful season.
Barca are in the Copa del Rey final, and they won the Spanish Super Cup, while Real Madrid have already won the European Super Cup and the Fifa Club World Cup this season, but the real judgements will be made in May.
And what happens in April will go a long way to deciding that.
It is a shame that Sevilla have faded from the title frame, sitting six points behind Barca in third. They are no longer in European competition and are free to concentrate on the league.
April sees them with a relatively easy run of fixtures with five games against teams in the bottom seven.
But they also have the small matter of a game at Camp Nou next Wednesday.
Zinedine Zidane has a busy April ahead.