Pressure on stuttering Atletico as rivals Real close gap in title race

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Atletico Madrid v Athletic Bilbao - Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain - March 10, 2021 Atletico Madrid's Luis Suarez celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates REUTERS/Juan Medina

MADRID (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid will bid to get their stuttering title challenge back on track when they host bottom club Eibar on Sunday.

Atletico held a 10-point lead at the start of February but that advantage over local rivals Real Madrid is now just a point, with Barcelona two back in third place, and they can ill-afford any more slip-ups if they are to claim a first La Liga crown since 2014.

Diego Simeone's side have won just one of their last four league games but captain Koke said if they can remain mentally strong they will be well-placed to hold off their rivals during the run-in.

“We’re still top of the league, and while we’ve got a number of injuries we can’t use that as an excuse,” he said.

“We’ve got a great squad and we’re having a great season. It’s something mental from this point on, the desire we have to win trophies. This is what motivates us.

“We feel strong, we’ve got a great group with top players and if were remain strong mentally then we will achieve our objectives.”

'Atleti' will be without forward Luis Suarez, who has a calf problem, for the visit of the Basques. Joao Felix, Thomas Lemar and Kieran Trippier will all undergo late fitness tests after missing training in midweek.

Reigning champions Real, who are on a run of 14 unbeaten in all competitions, look primed to take advantage of any slip ups.

They are riding the crest of a wave after last weekend's 'Clasico' victory against Barcelona last weekend before seeing off Liverpool to book a place in the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday.

Real travel to Getafe on Sunday without long-term absentees Sergio Ramos and Lucas Vazquez, while Dani Carvajal and Eden Hazard remain doubtful as they continue to recover from muscle issues.

(Reporting by Joseph Walker;Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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