First-place in La Liga is well within Barcelona and Real Madrid’s grasp, though both teams will pay very close attention to Atletico Madrid’s progress on Saturday.

Atletico holds a very slim one-point lead over Lionel Messi and the Catalans, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid behind by three points. Barcelona blows both of their rivals out the water in terms of goal differential, and really only needs Atletico to slip up once as the campaigns wind down.

Atletico kicks off play on Saturday in their match up with Villarreal, followed by Barcelona’s date with Real Betis at Camp Nou, and Real Madrid’s jaunt to Anoeta to face Real Sociedad.

The Catalans dealt with more than their fair share of troubles earlier this week when FIFA slapped them with a transfer ban that hinders any transfers this summer and next January. The issues specifically pertain to Barcelona recruiting players under the age of 18 from 2009 to 2013. The club has already publicly state they intend to appeal the penalties.

Nevertheless, they trudge on and look to extend their four-match unbeaten streak against a Real Betis squad they demolished 4-1 back in November. Cesc Fabregas notched a brace and Neymar and Pedro came up with goals, but the match was marred by an injury to Messi.

The Argentine has since moved on from the knock, and still leads Barcelona with 23 goals. However Messi hasn’t reached the back of the net in consecutive La Liga games.

Real Madrid have their own star knock to worry about, with Ronaldo reportedly sitting out against Real Sociedad due to a knee injury he re-aggravated during Champions League player earlier this week.

Ronaldo scored his 14 th goal in UCL play in the 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund, but subsequently limped off the pitch. He expected to play in the second match against Dortmund next week.

“[Ronaldo] was a little bit tired after the game against Borussia, so we decided to give him a little rest,” manager Carlo Ancelotti said to reporters. “He will return to play in the game in the Champions League on Tuesday.

"I have spoken with him and we decided together it was best for him to rest. It's normal he wants to play all the games, but there was no problem. He has played a lot of consecutive games. We just want him to rest, to avoid risks, as we have a lot of important games coming up.”

Barcelona and Real Betis

Kick-off: Saturday, 12 p.m. EST

TV Channel: beIn Sports

Live Online Stream: Watch a live online stream at beInSports Play here.


Real Madrid Vs. Real Sociedad

Kick-off: Saturday, 2 p.m. EST

TV Channel: beIn Sports

Live Online Stream: Watch a live online stream at beInSports Play here.