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Real Madrid presses for Barcelona slip-up with 5 rounds left in race for Spanish league title

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MADRID — With the Spanish league season nearing its end, Real Madrid can only wait for Barcelona to falter.

Barcelona leads the league by two points, and is also in the Copa del Rey final. Both Madrid and Barcelona are in the Champions League semifinals.

"Our strategy is clear," Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said after Madrid's 4-2 win at Celta Vigo on Sunday. "If we win all our matches, we force them to have to win all of theirs."

However, Madrid has tough matches at Sevilla and Valencia to come, while Barcelona's toughest challenge will be at Atletico Madrid.

Here are some things to know about this week's matches:


CHICHARITO'S CHANCE

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez replaced injured Madrid striker Karim Benzema and has rapidly won over fans by scoring the lone goal that knocked Atletico out of the Champions League. He then scored twice against Celta.

Ancelotti said Hernandez has "suffered" by not being selected often, and praised his persistence.

"If Chicharito continues to play like this, he'll be non-negotiable, like Cristiano (Ronaldo)," Ancelotti said. "But only 11 can play and the rest have to remain on the bench."

Hernandez said he had "gone through a bad time" while on the bench, but was determined to make the most of his chance in the squad.

"I'm focused on playing the maximum amount of minutes for the best team in the world," the Mexico forward said.

If Benzema is fit for Wednesday's match against 17th-place Almeria — a team fighting to remain above the relegation zone — Ancelotti must chose which striker to deploy.


PHOTO: FILE - In this Tuesday, April 21, 2015 file photo Barcelona's Neymar celebrates on the shoulders of teammate Dani Alves, after scoring his second goal during the Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match between FC Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona, Spain. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, April 21, 2015 file photo Barcelona's Neymar celebrates on the shoulders of teammate Dani Alves, after scoring his second goal during the Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match between FC Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona, Spain. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, File)

SIMEONE'S 200

Diego Simeone will celebrate his 200th match as coach of Atletico in Wednesday's match at Villarreal.

Simeone, who has so far steered Atletico to 126 wins and five titles, has been getting help from the in-form attacking partnership of Antoine Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic.

"I am enjoying myself right now," Griezmann said after scoring two goals during Atletico's 3-0 win over Elche on Saturday.


ALBA OUT

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique's main concern ahead of Tuesday's home match against 13th-place Getafe is the absence of suspended defender Jordi Alba.

"It (Getafe) is a dangerous side that defends with intensity and has great quality in attack," Enrique said. "I couldn't say how many points we're going to need to become champions, but the three available against Getafe are important. Madrid is very close behind us."

Barcelona drew 0-0 in its last league outing against Getafe.

The squad is bolstered by the return of midfielder Rafinha from injury, and Enrique will likely retain his three-pronged attack of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.


BALE IS BACK

Star forward Gareth Bale, who had been sidelined since he tore a calf muscle in his left leg during Madrid's 3-1 win over Malaga on April 18, says he is recovering well.

"Feeling stronger every day," said the Wales forward. "Can't wait to get back and join the lads."

If Bale is declared fit, Ancelotti is likely to use him on the right flank, with Ronaldo patrolling the left and either Benzema or Hernandez in front as the lone striker.

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PHOTO: Real Madrid's Chicharito from Mexico celebrates after scoring his team's fourth goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between RC Celta and Real Madrid, at the Balaídos stadium in Vigo, Spain, Sunday, April 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Lalo R. Villar)
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