La Liga preview: Real look to bounce back
Real Madrid will be determined to beat Villarreal on Wednesday after dropping points in La Liga for the first time since December.
Jose Mourinho's front-runners had won 11 league fixtures in succession before a home match with Malaga on Sunday.
Real's customary avalanche of goals failed to arrive at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, and they were forced to settle for a point when Santiago Cazorla netted a last-minute free-kick to earn the visitors a 1-1 draw.
Real's lead remains a healthy eight points over Barcelona, but Mourinho and his players will have no desire to offer the defending champions any further hope of recovering the deficit.
While Malaga went into last week's match on the back of three successive wins, Villarreal appear much less likely to trouble Real.
They have lost three consecutive matches, and are without a win in five outings to sit 17th on the table.
Nevertheless, if Real do slip up again, Barca will be keen to pounce.
In action a day earlier than the leaders, Pep Guardiola's title-holders can increase the pressure when they host promoted Granada.
Barca have won seven in succession and nine of their last 10 from all competitions, sending out a statement of intent to the rest of Europe with a 7-1 annihilation of Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League earlier this month.
Publicly, Guardiola claims his team have no chance of retaining their league crown.
But behind the scenes the Catalan outfit surely intend to do everything in their power to prevent the championship going to the Spanish capital.
In other mid-week fixtures, bottom side Real Zaragoza face a daunting task in their match away to third-place Valencia, who brushed aside Athletic Bilbao 3-0 on Sunday.
For their part, Athletic have now lost two in succession either side of Europa League wins over Manchester United, and will look to get back on track domestically when they go to Atletico Madrid.
Osasuna have taken advantage of Athletic's struggles to move sixth, and can cement their position with a win at home to Getafe.
Occupying the all-important fourth spot, Levante could do with maximum points from their trip to face Real Sociedad.
Aiming to overhaul Levante are fifth-placed Malaga, who host Rayo Vallecano on Thursday.
Elsewhere, promoted side Real Betis await the visit of mid-table Espanyol, and second-to-last Sporting Gijon are at home to Mallorca.
Finally, Sevilla can aim for their first win in three matches when they travel to third-from-bottom Racing Santander.