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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May, 3, 2012

Battle for European spots hots up

First and last place may have already been decided but there is still plenty to play for elsewhere in the Primera Division heading into the penultimate round of fixtures this weekend.

On Wednesday night Real Madrid ended Barcelona's three-year reign as Spanish champions by clinching their 32nd domestic league title, while rock-bottom Racing Santander's relegation to the Segunda Division was sealed last weekend.

However, most of the other sides in La Liga still have something to fight for, at least mathematically, at one end of the table or the other.

At the summit, Valencia are assured of a top-four finish for the third successive season following their 4-0 win over Osasuna, but they still have work to do seal third spot.

Valencia face a local derby against relegation-battling Villarreal holding a three-point lead over fourth-placed Malaga, who face a testing trip to Atletico Madrid.

Valencia striker Aritz Aduriz, who netted a double against Osasuna, said: "We are going to fight for third place. We've taken a big step towards our objective with this win."

Big-spending Malaga, who have won just once in their last five matches, are also under pressure to keep hold of fourth spot with Levante three points behind them and Atletico five points back.

Europa League finalists Atletico know they only have a slim chance of getting back into the Champions League places, but coach Diego Simeone said: "We're going to continue battling until the numbers say otherwise."

The race to get into next season's Europa League is even more open, with an incredible eight teams separated by just five points between Atletico in sixth and Espanyol in 13th.

Mallorca are the in-form side among those contenders, climbing up to seventh on the back of four wins in their last five matches, and they will hope to pick up another three points when they host stuttering Levante this weekend.

Mallorca coach Joaquin Caparros said: "I ask that on Saturday at 2100 we see a full stadium and the fans enjoying themselves, we're going to try and make a good atmosphere, we need everybody to be with us here on Saturday.''

Double cup finalists Athletic Bilbao have seen their bid for a top-six finish dwindle following back-to-back defeats to Real Zaragoza and Barca but they are still in eighth spot, two points behind Atletico.

Athletic are at home to 12th-placed Getafe, who themselves are only two points behind the Basque side - the same margin as local rivals Sevilla, in 10th, and Real Betis, in 11th.

Both Sevilla and Betis face relegation-battling sides on Saturday.

Betis, who moved level with Sevilla on 46 points with a last-gasp winner in Wednesday's derby, go to second-bottom Sporting Gijon, who must win their final two games to have any hope of avoiding the drop.

Sporting are currently six points behind 17th-placed Rayo Vallecano - the only team they can catch - but have the better head-to-head record against the Madrid-based outfit so still have a chance of staying up.

The good news for Sporting is that Rayo have suffered a dramatic loss of form at the wrong time, losing each of their last five matches and eight of their last nine. They take on Sevilla.

If Rayo lose then in-form Real Zaragoza, the other team in the drop zone, could draw level with them on 40 points with a victory over relegated Racing.

In this weekend's three other fixtures, newly-crowned champions Madrid go to Granada, while Barca coach Pep Guardiola makes his Camp Nou farewell in a local derby against Espanyol.

Also, ninth-placed Osasuna take on Real Sociedad.

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