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Real seeking perfect 20 to wrap year

RONALDO-EIBAR-FACEMADRID, December 11- La Liga leaders Real Madrid will look to make it 20 consecutive victories in all competitions as they travel to managerless Almeria on Friday for their final league outing of the year.

The European champions head off to Morocco next week to contest the Club World Cup and will be keen to keep their fine run going into 2015.

After downing Celta Vigo last weekend, a comfortable 4-0 victory over Ludogorets Razgrad in midweek saw Los Blancos beat the previous Spanish record of 18, a figure set by Barcelona in the 2005/06 season.

Real became only the sixth side to go through the group stage with a clean sweep of victories in the Champions League — they are the only side to do it twice — and their fine form is delighting boss Carlo Ancelotti.

“It is a result we have achieved with extraordinary seriousness and an incredible amount of professionalism,” the Italian said of his side’s run.

“It is not easy preparing for each game with the same levels of motivation and eagerness that these players are showing. I know that I have an extraordinary group of players.”

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 28th goal of the season and his 72nd overall in the Champions League on Tuesday and will look to continue his lethal form in front of goal as they visit an Almeria side who have not won in the league since September.

Monday’s 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Eibar finally cost Francisco Rodriguez his job with the Andalusians only above the relegation zone on goal difference.

Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Isco and Toni Kroos were the only first team regulars not handed the night off by Ancelotti in midweek, so the likes of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema are set to return.

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James Rodriguez will be missing, though, as the World Cup’s top goalscorer joins fellow midfielders Luka Modric and Sami Khedira on the sidelines after picking up a calf injury against Celta last weekend that is likely to see him miss the rest of the year.

Should Madrid continue their irresistible form, the pressure will be on Barcelona when they visit Getafe on Saturday looking to remain within two points off the league leaders.

The Catalan outfit — who got a great boost with a fine 3-1 win over Paris Saint Germain in their Champions League clash on Wednesday to finish top of the group — needed more magic from Lionel Messi to dig them out of a tricky situation after Espanyol struck first in the Catalan derby last weekend.

As ever, the Argentine delivered with his third hat-trick in his last five outings to inspire a 5-1 victory and stretch Barca’s winning streak in the league to four games after back-to-back defeats rocked their title hopes in October.

Champions Atletico Madrid will also try to remain in the title hunt when they host Villarreal on Sunday.

However, attention will be on the stands in the first game at the Vicente Calderon since a Deportivo La Coruna fan was killed close to their ground prior to the match between the two sides on November 30.

Atletico have tried to distance themselves from the Frente Atletico ultras group that has been implicated in the fighting that provoked Francisco Jose Romero Taboada’s death, yet it remains to be seen if the club will close the section where they are normally located, or distribute tickets to other fans.

The Spanish football league has clamped down on abusive chanting in the wake of the incidents a fortnight ago with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Rayo Vallecano, Deportivo and Granada all set to face fines.

Meanwhile, David Moyes has the chance to bounce back from his side’s humiliating 4-0 defeat at Villarreal last weekend, which the Scot admitted could even have been “much worse,” in the biggest game of his reign to date when they host Athletic Bilbao in the Basque derby.

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Fixtures (all times GMT)


Almeria v Real Madrid (1945)


Getafe v Barcelona (1500), Valencia v Rayo Vallecano (1700), Cordoba v Levante (1900), Malaga v Celta Vigo (2100)


Espanyol v Granada (1100), Sevilla v Eibar (1500), Atletico Madrid v Villarreal (1700), Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao (1900)

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