Sun, 01 Aug 2021

MADRID, July 9 (Xinhua) -- Real Madrid will expect to take another step closer to the La Liga title on Friday when they entertain struggling Alaves in the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium.

Although Madrid's lead at the top of the table was reduced to just one point by Barcelona's 1-0 win at home to Espanyol on Wednesday night, that lead would reopen to four points with just three games to play if Zinedine Zidane's men can beat a team that has lost its last five matches and still has work to do to avoid relegation.

Alaves' poor recent form saw Asier Garitano sacked as coach on Sunday and replaced by Juan Muniz, although the former Levante and Malaga boss has had little time to alter his new side's tactics and has focused instead on lifting the morale of his players.

Alaves will be without suspended defender Ruben Duarte and injured goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco for the trip to Madrid, while Zidane is without defenders Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal for the game after both picked up bookings in Sunday's win in Bilbao.

Ferland Mendy will cover for Carvajal on the right side of defense, while fit-again Raphael Varane will return for Ramos.

Elsewhere, Luka Jovic is out of the squad after being placed in quarantine as the result of meeting a friend who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

Madrid's controversial win in the San Mames Stadium once again saw decisions with VAR go their way, as they were awarded a penalty after Dani Garcia stepped on Marcelo, while Athletic didn't get a similar decision when Ramos clearly stepped on their striker Raul Garcia.

VAR also failed to intervene after what looked like a clear aggression from the Madrid defender on Dani Garcia.

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