MADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has brushed aside an insinuation by Barcelona’s Gerard Pique that the league leaders are getting preferential treatment by referees ahead of Wednesday’s round of games.
Real host Las Palmas while Barca, a point behind in second place, are at home to Sporting.
Chasing their first La Liga crown since 2012, Real are top after a Sunday that saw each of the rivals get late wins. Barca had moved top thanks to a late strike from Lionel Messi in their 2-1 victory at Atletico Madrid.
Real then moved back into first place after a 3-2 come-from-behind win at Villarreal. Cristiano Ronaldo converted a disputed penalty to equalise after Villarreal captain Bruno Soriano handled following a ricochet in the area.
Villarreal coach Fran Escriba and substitute Roberto Soldado were both sent off from the dugout for protesting the decision.
Alvaro Morata then scored the winner in the 83rd minute.
Afterwards, Pique tweeted examples reported by the Spanish press that refereeing decisions were going in the league leaders’ favour and against his own team.
“I don’t believe that the referees attempt to give or take anything away from you, quite the opposite, they try to be fair,” Ramos told his club’s website.
Real gave away two early goals in a midweek defeat to Valencia.
“We’re focused on continuing to improve,” Ramos said. “We want to keep picking up three points in order to win the title.”
Las Palmas forward Jese Rodriguez will face his former club less than six months after leaving Real Madrid to join Paris St Germain.
He has not scored since joining Las Palmas on loan on Jan. 31 and his side have lost all four games since his arrival.
Barcelona host coach Luis Enrique’s hometown club without the services of defender Mathieu, who sustained a sprained ankle against Atletico.
The defending champions have Messi in top form, with the Argentine forward having scored in his team’s last four league games. He has a league-best 20 goals.
Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta says the aim right now is to play well and keep the pressure on the leaders.
”We need to keep on winning for when they (Real) make mistakes,“ Iniesta told reporters on Monday. ”It’s good for them to notice that we are right there.
Opponents Sporting are in the relegation zone with 17 points from 24 games.
Third-place Sevilla are two points adrift of Barcelona and host Athletic Bilbao on Thursday.
Reporting by Adriana Garcia; Editing by Alison Williams