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La Liga: All set for key matches this weekend with focus on Europe (Preview)

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Madrid, April 14 (IANS) Matchday 32 in La Liga kicks off and ends with vital matches in the battle to qualify for Europe next season and also even for the title.

Friday night sees sixth-place Real Sociedad entertain fifth place Betis in a game between two sides who still have hopes of sneaking into the top-four and qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

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A win for Betis would lift them temporarily over Atletico Madrid and into the top-four, but coach Manuel Pellegrini will have to ensure his side remains focused ahead of next weekend’s Copa del Rey final.

The weekend also ends on a high note with third place Sevilla at home to Real Madrid, who travel after yet another escape act in the Champions League and with calls for Eduardo Camavinga to get more game time.

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Sevilla returned to winning ways at home to Granada last weekend and would move to within nine points at the top of the table if they could beat Carlo Ancelotti’s men, reports Xinhua.

FC Barcelona will be watching events in the Sanchez Pizjuan closely, with a Sevilla win also giving Xavi Hernandez’s side the chance to close to within nine points of Real Madrid (and with a game in hand) if they can win their match at home to Cadiz on a rare Monday kick-off.

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Cadiz dropped back into the relegation zone after last weekend’s narrow home defeat to Betis, but have lost just three from 11 matches since Sergio Gonzalez took over as first-team coach.

Saturday’s matches turn their focus to the battle against relegation, with Elche entertaining Mallorca and Alaves at home to Rayo Vallecano.

Three consecutive defeats mean that Elche can’t breathe easily yet as they are just four points above the relegation zone, while Mallorca climbed out of the bottom three with their 1-0 win at home to Atletico Madrid last weekend — a performance that showed Javier Aguirre has worked on improving their defense.

Julio Velazquez’s debut at Alaves ended in a late defeat away to Osasuna last weekend and his bottom-of-the-table side have to beat Rayo Vallecano, who are six points above the drop zone but without a win in their last 12 league games.

Valencia prepare for next weekend’s Copa del Rey final with a home game against Osasuna, before Villarreal face a difficult visit to Getafe.

Unai Emery’s men earned the plaudits after they shocked Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday, but Villarreal can’t afford to drop any points in La Liga or else they run the risk of losing seventh place to Athletic Club Bilbao, who are just a point behind.

Athletic entertain Celta Vigo, on Sunday, looking to build on last weekend’s 1-1 draw away to Villarreal, although they are likely to still be without central defender Inigo Martinez against a rival that has taken one point from a possible 12.

Atletico Madrid have to get over their Champions League exit with a home match against Espanyol and Diego Simeone’s side have little room for error with Real Sociedad and Betis closing in on them in the battle for fourth place.

Finally, fifth from bottom Granada take on second from bottom Levante in another battle to avoid the drop, Levante showed how much they have improved as they were desperately unlucky to lose to Barcelona last weekend and have their threat in Jose Luis Morales, while Granada also held Sevilla until injury time, so this could be close.

–IANS

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