This year’s – Real Madrid – La Liga fixtures draw was even more sensational than usual, taking place amid chaos in Spanish football with long-serving RFEF president Angel Maria Villar and three other senior figures from the federation having been arrested on corruption charges this week.

There was more drama when the dates for the 2017-18 Primera Division were announced, and Real Madrid were handed what looks like a very challenging fixture list as they look to defend their title.

Here’s the five key fixtures to look out for this coming season:

1. Barcelona
(H) — 20 December 2017
(A) — 06 May 2018

Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo

The first El Clasico of the season is always scheduled on the calendar, and this year comes just as Real Madrid return from (almost certainly) playing in the Club World Cup final.

In previous years, the CWC decider was the final game of the calendar year, but this season a midweek round of domestic league games has been fitted in just before the winter break. And the draw sees the Real Madrid host Barcelona on December 20.

The initial thought was that Barca will welcome an opportunity to take on a team likely mentally and physically affected by the commitments at the FIFA showpiece tournament, although this year the traveling is less as the United Arab Emirates have taken over as hots from Japan.

Spanish publication Marca quickly found a more positive spin, pointing out that Lionel Messi and company will likely have to do a “pasillo” to welcome the newly crowned world champions out onto the pitch at the Bernabeu.

The return of this tournament comes very late this season, with Los Blancos at the Camp Nou in game-week 36 in what already looks quite likely to be the decisive fixture of the entire season. Althouhg, there is a lot of football to be played between now and then, it is not difficult to imagine the two clubs locked together at the top of the table, with a victory for one or the other clinching the title.

2. Atletico Madrid
(A) — 19 November 2017
(H) — 8 April 2018

Zinedine Zidane’s side begin the defence of their title with what looks a straightforward trip to Deportivo La Coruna on Aug. 19 or 20. That is then followed by a generally favourable first 11 fixtures, mostly against teams who finished in the bottom half last season. Things get more complicated for Real on game-week 12 (No. 19-20) with a first visit to Atletico Madrid’s new Wanda Metropolitano home.

The Rojiblancos fans are sure to give a warm welcome when Cristiano Ronaldo and company step out at the gleaming new ground for the first time.

Diego Simeone’s side will also want to show supporters still skeptical over the merits of the move that the new stadium can immediately start making history of its own. Madrid won just one of their eight visits to the old Vicente Calderon, although that was an emphatic 3-0 victory in La Liga last November. They would very much like a similar result on their first visit to the Wanda.

The return derby at the Bernabeu comes right between the Champions League quarterfinals. Given the two Spanish capital clubs have met in that competition in each of the last four seasons, there’s a decent chance they will be seeing a lot of each other again next April.

3. Celta Vigo
(A) — 07 January 2018
(H) — 13 May 2018

January has often been a tough month for Madrid in recent times, especially when the squad are returning from their winter break after playing the CWC just before heading on their holidays. And that was even without the complication of a pre-Christmas Clasico.

Bernabeu pundits therefor will be a bit concerned to see that their first match of 2018 is at Celta Vigo on Jan. 7 or 8. The European giants were knocked out of the Copa del Rey at Balaidos in January 2016, and relations between the clubs got worsted during a row over the postponement of a La Liga game there due to stormy weather last winter.

The return match at the Bernabeu then comes in game-week 37 – just when things are going down to the wire in the La Liga. Celta excel in their role as a small club that can embarrass the big guns, and the fixture list gives them a couple of ideal chances to hurt the big boys from the capital.

4. Sevilla
(H) — 10 December 2017
(A) — 21 April 2018

The fixture of the Copa del Rey final for April 21 means that the finalists’ games scheduled for that weekend will have to be moved quite likely to the Wednesday of the final week of the Liga season.

There is a good chance the Los Blancos will be affected, as they are due to visit Sevilla on April 21, and one of these clubs has played in five of the last eight Copa finals.

A visit to the Sanchez Pizjuan is difficult, as the 12-time Champions League winner have been mauled there on each each of the last seasons. It would be even tougher if it comes amid fixture congestion late on.

Sevilla usually pose fewer problems at the Bernabeu, where they are due on Dec. 10 and likely to be the last opponents faced before Zidane’s side fly to the Gulf for the CWC.

5. Villarreal
(H) — 14 January 2018
(A) — 20 May 2018

Villarreal are always tricky for the La Liga champions, as they are one of the few teams who believe they can come to the Santiago Bernabeu and get something. In fact, they have drawn on three of their last four visits to the stadium and are therefore particularly awkward opponents to host during what is a tough January schedule.

Then should things go right down to the final day, Real Madrid are at El Madrigal, where they have won on only two of their last five matches.

The fixtures have given the Yellow Submarine two chances to sink Los Blancos’ title chances this season.