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Real Madrid refuses to give up on title chase

By all accounts, Real Madrid can kiss its chances of retaining the La Liga title goodbye.

Madrid trails first-place Barcelona by 16 points through 17 games this season, leaving the current champions with a massive mountain to climb just to get into a position to pressure the Catalans.

But Los Merengues, who welcome Real Sociedad to the Bernabeu on Sunday, will not let their disappointing third-place position in Spain's top flight deter them from pushing Barcelona to the finish.

"La Liga has become very difficult but not impossible," said defender Sergio Ramos, who is suspended for Sunday's match. "We have to carry on with enthusiasm, achieving victories.

"Madrid is obliged as a whole to carry on fighting for every title. All the players, from the first to the last, we are on the right track, our attitude has always been good."

Real Madrid is winless in its last two matches, following up a 2-2 draw with Espanyol with a 3-2 loss at Malaga before the start of Spain's winter break.

A great deal of pressure has been placed on the club on a weekly basis, but Ramos quelled any suspicion of anxiousness setting in with Jose Mourinho's side.

"I don't think it is a problem with anxiousness," Ramos said. "I think in football you get bad streaks, perhaps in some games things have not turned out the way we wanted and especially in front of the goal we have not had the same efficiency we had last year."

Madrid may find goals hard to come by on Sunday as Sociedad boasts one of La Liga's stingiest defenses, conceding just 20 goals in its 17 league matches.

A much-needed win for Real at the Bernabeu would go a long way toward keeping the pressure on Barcelona and second-place Atletico Madrid, which square off against Espanyol at Camp Nou and Mallorca at the Iberostar Stadium, respectively, on Sunday.

In Sunday's opening La Liga contest, Celta Vigo will be out to snap a three- game slide as it welcomes Valladolid to the Estadio Municipal de Balaidos.

On Saturday, Levante and Athletic Bilbao hope to overturn losses in their outings when they meet at the Ciutat de Valencia, Malaga goes for a fourth straight league win when it heads to the Riazor to take on Deportivo, Sevilla plays for its first league win since November 18 when it welcomes Osasuna to the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan and Granada hopes to pull further away from the relegation zone with a positive result against Valencia at Los Carmenes.

On Monday, Rayo Vallecano hosts Getafe at the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas, and on Friday, Ruben Castro and Jorge Molina scored to lift Real Betis to a 2-1 victory at Real Zaragoza.