Real need win to keep Barca at bay
Four weeks ago the Spanish Liga seemed virtually decided, with Real Madrid enjoying a massive 10-point lead over champions Barcelona.
But Jose Mourinho's team have won just two of their last five games, while Barca have taken maximum points and cut Real's lead down to one point.
An online poll taken by the website of the Marca sports daily hours after Sunday's 0-0 draw at home to Valencia showed that no less than 79 per cent of readers now consider Barca favourites for the title.
Anything less than a convincing win away to crosstown rivals Atletico on Wednesday will create a massive crisis for Mourinho and his players, who also face a visit to Barcelona later in the month.
"Our schedule is very difficult but it is time to demonstrate our capacity. On Wednesday we have to the Estadio Calderon to win, knowing that we are facing difficult opponents," Real director Emilio Butragueno said.
"Wednesday's game will be crucial. It will be another final for us."
Atletico have not beaten Real since 1999. They are stranded in seventh place after Sunday's 2-0 defeat at Levante, and will be without suspended players Miranda, Mario Suarez and Eduardo Salvio.
Real will have Sergio Ramos back from suspension and Angel di Maria - who came off the subs' bench against Valencia - back from injury.
Wednesday's other games are Granada v Athletic Bilbao, Valencia v Rayo Vallecano and Sporting Gijon v Levante.
Valencia must win in order to keep Malaga and Levante away from third place which grants direct entry into the Champions league.
The visit of Levante will be do or die for Gijon, who are joint bottom along with Racing Santander. Failure to beat Levante could lead Gijon to sack Javier Clemente, their third coach of a troubled season.
The midweek round concludes on Thursday with Villarreal v Malaga, Santander v Mallorca and Sevilla v Zaragoza.