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Top of the charts: Celta Vigo's Spanish forward Iago Aspas

Football

In-form Celta and veteran Aspas eye Real Madrid shock

MADRID, Spain, Jan 1Real Madrid will attempt to hang onto the coattails of La Liga leaders and city rivals Atletico on Saturday when they tackle in-form Celta Vigo and Iago Aspas, the veteran striker who leads the Spanish scoring charts this season.

Zinedine Zidane’s side lost ground in the title race when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Elche in midweek.

Atletico, however, defeated Getafe 1-0 and have a two-point lead as well as two games in hand.

Since the arrival of 46-year-old Argentine coach Eduardo Coudet, Celta have soared from the edge of the relegation zone to eighth in the table.

That turnaround has been achieved on the back of a run of six wins, a draw and just one loss in their last eight games.

Celta are just two points behind Barcelona.

Aspas, 33, has been instrumental for Celta with nine goals in La Liga this season.

He even leads the top scorers charts with one more goal than Real’s Karim Benzema and two ahead of even Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

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“Aspas is spectacular, he’s also an international,” said Zidane of a player who once spent two seasons on Liverpool’s books.

“He has always proved it, he is very good. He’s the kind of player who makes a difference. He’s a key player for them.”

Atletico’s victory in midweek came in coach Diego Simeone’s 500th match in charge.

They face 13th-placed Alaves on Sunday looking for a fourth consecutive win.

Key will be Luis Suarez who grabbed the winner against Getafe, taking his goals total to eight for the season.

Third-placed Real Sociedad, six points off the top, host Osasuna on Sunday.

Barcelona, 10 points behind Atletico, ended a mediocre 2020 on Tuesday with a 1-1 draw against Eibar.

They start 2021 on Sunday with a trip to bottom club Huesca.

Messi, who missed the game with Eibar with a right ankle injury, enters the new year with just six months left on his contract and more questions than before over his future plans.

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Barcelona suffered another setback on Friday when they announced Philippe Coutinho will need surgery to treat the injury to the lateral meniscus of his left knee.

“Once the surgery has been completed, further information will be provided to detail the approximate expected recovery time,” said a club statement.

Coutinho suffered the injury against Eibar.

Fixtures

Saturday

Villarreal v Levante (4pm), Real Betis v Sevilla 6:15pm), Getafe v Valladolid (8:30pm), Real Madrid v Celta Vigo (11pm)

Sunday

Athletic Bilbao v Elche (4pm), Alaves v Atletico Madrid (6:15pm), Real Sociedad v Osasuna, Eibar v Granada (8:30pm), Huesca v Barcelona (11pm)

Monday

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Valencia v Cadiz (11pm)

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