Pressure on Madrid to pick up three points vs. Gijon

With heaps of pressure to maintain its lead atop La Liga, Real Madrid welcomes Sporting Gijon to the Bernabeu on Saturday.

Real Madrid once held a 12-point lead over second-place Barcelona, but a string dropped points in the second half of the season opened the door for the Catalans to make it a more compelling title race.

After a scoreless draw with Valencia to let Barcelona move even closer to the top spot, three points at the Vicente Calderon against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday was an absolute must. Jose Mourinho's men did not disappoint as a hat trick from Cristiano Ronaldo guided Real to a 4-1 victory.

"He is the best player in the world," Real defender Sergio Ramos said of Ronaldo. "We are lucky to have him with us and to train everyday with him."

But despite the inspiring result, Ramos revealed the intense pressure that Real Madrid carries from game to game.

"A team like Madrid has to live with pressure, but we know how to deal with it and that we have to be ready for everything," the Spaniard said. "Every game is life or death. Against Atletico we got an important victory. Everything well, very well, and this gives us some peace of mind."

According to Ramos, the locker room culture at the Bernabeu is solid, and that may be just enough to see the club hold on to the title.

"The dressing room is strong, full of hope and desire," he said. "It would be a shame to let the title escape after so much work and sacrifice behind us this season."

Barcelona is very well equipped to deny Real once more as the two sides have yet to play Camp Nou. First though, the Catalans will set their sights on Levante as they head Ciutat de Valencia on Saturday.

The race for the final two Champions League qualification spots is also heating up in Spain as only seven points separate third place from seventh place.

Fourth-place Malaga suffered a shock defeat to Villarreal last time out, but it will look to rebound on Sunday when it hosts Real Sociedad.

Valencia occupies third place and will hope to hold on to that position with three points on Sunday. A positive result at the Estadi Cornella-El Prat would extend 10th-place Espanyol's winless run in league play to six games.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Real Betis hosts Osasuna, Villarreal hosts Racing, Real Zaragoza hosts Granada, Athletic Bilbao hosts Mallorca and Rayo Vallecano hosts Atletico Madrid.

Monday's lone fixture sees Sevilla heading to the Coliseum Alfonso Perez to face Getafe.