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La Liga Preview: Huge Stakes In Madrid Derby

Barcelona will be hoping Atletico Madrid will do them a favour in the Madrid derby as La Liga packs in a full round of games midweek.

Atletico host Real Madrid on Wednesday but in bad news for Barcelona, Atletico have failed to defeat their local rivals in 20-straight clashes.

A win for Atletico would be their first since the 1999/2000 season and would give Barcelona a chance to move within one point of Real Madrid at the top of the table.

Atletico sit seventh in the Spanish league on 42 points, trailing their bitter rivals by 37. Diego Simeone’s side qualified for the Europa League semi-finals last week with a 2-1 win over Hannover, but looked tired in their 2-0 loss to Levante on Sunday, while Real drew 0-0 with Valencia.

That draw was the first time Real have been held scoreless in La Liga since September 21 when they drew 0-0 against Racing Santander.

Barcelona take on 10th-placed Getafe on Tuesday and know they cannot afford to drop any more points if they are to catch Real in the last seven rounds. Barcelona came from behind to beat Real Zaragoza 4-1 on Saturday.

In the race for the two other Champions League spots, Valencia, Levante and Malaga are separated by just two points.

Levante travel to Sporting Gijon and Valencia host Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday, while Malaga will play Villarreal on Thursday.

Levante look to have the easiest match of the three Champions League hopefuls. The Valencia-based club, which is run on a minimal budget, will be one of the fairytale stories of the European season if they can qualify for the Champions League next season.

Levante are currently fourth, a point ahead of cashed-up Malaga, who are owned by a Qatari royal. If Malaga miss out on a Champions League berth it will be a disappointing performance by manager Manuel Pellegrini, who has spent plenty of money on the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Santi Cazorla and Julio Baptista.

In other matches, Espanyol travel to Osasuna and Sociedad take on Betis on Tuesday, while Granada face Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

The midweek games finish up on Thursday with Santander hosting Mallorca and Sevilla up against Zaragoza.

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