PREVIEW: Barca look to stretch gap over Real

La Liga leaders Barcelona can increase the gap between them and arch-rivals Real Madrid to 11 points if they win at Levante on Sunday night.

A deflected goal....


La Liga leaders Barcelona were boosted by the news that midfielder Xavi is close to renewing his contract as well as Madrid's 1-0 loss to Real Betis on Saturday night. 

The 32-year-old Spain midfielder has spent his entire career at the Nou Camp, and his calm authority in possession has made him one of the linchpins of the Catalan club's success over the last decade.

He has been key in Barca's excellent start to the new campaign under Tito Villanova; they are through to the last 16 of the Champions League after their midweek win over Spartak Moscow and sit three points clear at the top of La Liga.

And Xavi wants to see out his career at his boyhood club.

During a question and answer session through the club's official Twitter feed, Xavi said: "I hope to be here for many years. I feel great physically, I've recovered totally from those niggling injuries.

"Barca are making an effort for me to stay and I'm making an effort too. It's my greatest desire to be able to retire here.

"There have been difficult moments but I hope to continue here and renew my contract soon."

In Sunday's other fixtures, second-placed Atletico Madrid entertain Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao will look to try and put rumours of a strained relationship between the club and striker Fernando Llorente behind them when they meet Deportivo La Coruna.

Llorente and president Josu Urrutia have reportedly been feuding since the player refused to sign a new contract during the summer.

The club also caused a stir by saying Llorente had refused to attend a media conference this week, while the striker insisted he had been doing a TV interview and could not attend.

Bottom club Espanyol play host to mid-table Getafe and Real Zaragoza face Celta Vigo.


Saturday & Friday's Round-Ups

Real Madrid's hopes of defending the Primera Division title suffered a further dent on Saturday evening as they went down 1-0 at Real Betis.

Benat Etxebarria netted the game's only goal after 17 minutes as Pepe Mel's side went some way to redeeming themselves after last weekend's 5-1 derby mauling at the hands of Sevilla.

The result left Jose Mourinho's champions in third place in the standings - eight points adrift of arch rivals Barcelona, who visit Levante on Sunday night.

Malaga earlier registered their first league win in five games as they hammered Valencia 4-0 at La Rosaleda to move back into the top four ahead of Levante's game on Sunday.

The margin of victory could have been even greater for the hosts, who controlled the game from the off and went ahead just eight minutes in when Francisco Portillo curled home from Eliseu's cut-back.

Javier Saviola made it 2-0 15 minutes from time - a goal that was quickly followed by a third from Roque Santa Cruz.

Valencia were then reduced to 10 men as Adil Rami saw a second yellow card and Isco rounded off a fantastic evening for Malaga with a fourth in stoppage time.

Elsewhere, Real Valladolid stretched their unbeaten home run to six games as Manucho's second-half strike secured a 1-0 victory over Granada.

The Angolan had come close to breaking the deadlock in the first half with an overhead kick but made no mistake just after the hour when he was played in by Oscar Gonzalez and sent a fierce shot beyond Tono into the top corner.

Finally, Rayo Vallecano left it late to see off out-of-form Real Mallorca 2-0 in an awful game on Saturday afternoon.

A match utterly devoid of excitement looked headed for a goalless draw until Leo Baptistao broke the deadlock with a goal totally out of keeping with what had gone beforehand, firing home low from 30 yards.

He then turned provider as substitute Andrija Delibasic got a second in the 90th minute to keep the hosts well placed in the top half and condemn the visitors to a seventh defeat in eight league games.

In Friday's game, Real Sociedad's recent good form deserted them as they were held to a 0-0 draw at home by struggling Osasuna.

Friday's La Liga Result

Real Sociedad 0-0 Osasuna


Saturday's La Liga Results

Rayo Vallecano 2-0 Mallorca

Valladolid 1-0 Granada

Malaga 4-0 Valencia

Real Betis 1-0 Real Madrid


Sunday's La Liga Fixtures

Espanyol vs Getafe

Athletic Bilbao vs Deportivo La Coruna

Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla

Levante vs Barcelona

Monday's La Liga Fixtures

Real Zaragoza vs Celta Vigo

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