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La Liga Preview: Title race heats up as Barca host Malaga

Barcelona can continue their fine record against Malaga on Sunday as an enthralling La Liga title race continues to heat up.

The defending champions are ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid on goal difference, with Real Madrid a point further back.

However, with Real facing Granada on Saturday and Atletico’s game at Rayo Vallecano taking place two hours before Barca’s, Gerardo Martino’s men could find themselves in third before kick-off.

Still, although Barca have drawn back-to-back games in La Liga, the hosts should be confident of returning to winning ways against a Malaga side who have not beaten the Catalan club since 2003.

Real have gone 10 league games unbeaten since the 2-1 defeat at Camp Nou in October, and they can put pressure on both Barca and Atletico with another triumph against Granada, who have never won at the Bernabeu.

Atletico make the short trip to Vallecano on an identical run of form to Barca over the last two league games, following a disappointing 1-1 draw with Sevilla last weekend.

But Diego Simeone’s men should be confident of atoning for that setback against their relegation-threatened neighbours, who were hammered 5-0 by Atletico back in August.

Athletic Bilbao travel to Osasuna eager to secure a third straight league win and boost their prospects of UEFA Champions League qualification.

Meanwhile, fifth-placed Villarreal – two points behind Bilbao – have a great opportunity to pounce on any slip-up from the Basque club as Marcelino’s side visit struggling Real Valladolid.

Real Sociedad will look to revive hopes of a return to the Champions League when Jagoba Arrasate’s men host Elche, on the back of a damaging 5-1 defeat to Villarreal and a 2-2 draw with Getafe.

In-form Sevilla could move into the top six with victory over Levante, while Celta Vigo meet bottom club Real Betis in a crucial game at the foot of the table.

Elsewhere, Valencia take on Espanyol and Almeria host Getafe.

Wed 22 January, 2014
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