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La Liga schedule and preview, Week 18: Atlético Madrid and Barcelona clash at the Camp Nou

It's an important week in La Liga as two title contenders meet in a vital mid-season match.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Last week in La Liga was strange. Why? Because when both Real Madrid AND Barcelona lose in the same match week, it's strange. Such was week 17 as Valencia pulled off an impressive upset of Los Blancos and Barca stumbled badly against Real Sociedad.

Barca got a much-needed victory -- mainly for morale -- during the week against Elche in the Copa del Rey, but Sunday's challenge is far different. The Blaugrana welcome Atlético Madrid to the Camp Nou, knowing they can ill afford any more dropped points in the title race. Diego Simeone was able to rest several starters and still defeat Real Madrid, so the Colchoneros will be rested and ready for Barca.

Real Madrid followed up that performance with a 2-0 loss against Atlético Madrid in the Copa del Rey, so after amassing 22 straight wins, Carlo Ancleotti's side have lost two straight competitive matches. Espanyol -- Madrid's opponent for the weekend -- can look at this situation two says. Either they're going to be scared to death of an angry and motivated Madrid side, or they can see weakness and believe they can take advantage of the situation.

Assuming there's not a draw between Atléti and Barca, Valencia could move within a point of third place with a win over Celta Vigo.
Friday, Jan. 9

Levante vs. Deportivo la Coruña | 2:45 p.m. ET, 8:45 p.m. CEST

Saturday, January 10

Real Madrid vs. Espanyol | 10 a.m. ET, 4 p.m. CEST

Málaga vs. Villarreal | 12 p.m. ET, 6 p.m. CEST

Celta Vigo vs. Valencia | 2 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. CEST

Eibar vs. Getafe | 4 p.m. ET, 10 p.m. CEST

Sunday, January 11

Almería vs. Sevilla | 6 a.m. ET, 12 p.m. CEST

Athletic Club vs. Elche | 11 a.m. ET, 5 p.m. CEST

Granada vs. Real Sociedad | 1 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. CEST

Barcelona vs. Atlético Madrid | 3 p.m. ET, 9 p.m. CEST

Monday, January 12

Rayo Vallecano vs. Córdoba | 2:45 p.m. ET, 8:45 p.m. CEST