Real Madrid need to win in Levante ahead of Barca double-header

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MADRID, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- Real Madrid need to claim all three points when they travel to Valencia to face Levante on Sunday to keep their title hopes alive.

Depending on FC Barcelona's result away to Sevilla on Saturday afternoon, Madrid could kick off Sunday's game away to Levante 12 points from the top of the table.

However, if Barca drop points Santiago Solari's side will have the chance to close the gap at the start of a week which sees them entertain Barca in both Copa del Rey and the Liga Santander.

Last weekend's defeat at home to Girona ended Real Madrid's run of five consecutive league wins and stopped their progress under Solari in its tracks. The coach argued after the game that his players had been tired and that could indeed have been a factor after they had played two games a week since the start of the year.

The squad has had a rare midweek without a match this week to help recharge their batteries ahead of another busy month and it will be important that the week has allowed players such as Tony Kroos and Luka Modric (who is rumored to have agreed a new contract until 2021) to recover.

The coach had lunch with club President, Florentino Perez during the week and Perez no doubt reminded him of the importance of the coming days.

Sergio Ramos will miss Sunday's game through suspension and central defender Nacho Fernandez and midfielder Casemiro will have to be careful in the Ciudad de Valencia Stadium in order to avoid a booking which would force them to watch next weekend's game against Barca from the stands.

It is especially important Casemiro doesn't get booked given that his natural replacement Marcos Llorente is sidelined after suffering a relapse of the groin injury which had previously kept him out of match for six weeks.

Levante will be in good spirits to receive Madrid after winning 2-1 in the Bernabeu earlier in the season and following last weekend's 4-1 win away to Celta Vigo, with winger Jose Luis Morales again leading from the front.

The club will again be without left back Tono, who on Friday was remanded in custody without bail as he faces charges of belonging to a criminal organization, money laundering and attempting to get money through the use of threats, but his absence wasn't felt against Celta. And Levante could be a tough nut to crack. Enditem

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