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La Liga preview: Big games for big names

By Football News



The top eight sides meet in La Liga this weekend - a round that will help shape the top half of the table.

League leaders Barcelona travel to Levante on Sunday hoping to recover from an arduous mid-week Champions League journey to the Russian capital.

The Catalans comfortably defeated Spartak Moscow 3-0 with superstar Lionel Messi scoring a brace after Dani Alves' opener.

Tito Vilanova's side has a three-point lead over Atletico Madrid, who host seventh-placed Sevilla at the Estadio Vicente Calderon on Sunday night.

Atletico will also be coming off a European encounter as they welcome Hapoel Tel-Aviv in Thursday's Europa League clash.

El Atleti have won 10 of the past 11 league games and look best placed to crack the Barcelona-Real Madrid duopoly.

Cross-town rivals Real have fallen five points behind Atletico and boss Jose Mourinho will be looking to close the gap at Real Betis on Saturday.

A 1-1 away draw against Manchester City on Wednesday guaranteed Real's progression to the Champions League knockout stage and Mourinho will be hoping that will allow for some better results domestically.

Rock-solid Malaga play Valencia on Saturday, having only conceded nine goals in their 12 league matches this season.

The south coast side will be buoyed by sealing their passage to the Champions League knockout stage with a 2-2 draw against Zenit St Petersburg and are currently three points clear of Italian powerhouse AC Milan.

In other fixtures, Real Sociedad meet Osasuna on Friday while on Saturday, Real Valladolid welcome Granada, Rayo Vallecano entertain Mallorca and Espanyol host Getafe.

On Sunday, Deportivo La Coruna travel to Athletic Bilbao.