- Associated Press - Thursday, March 13, 2014

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Real Madrid has to stay focused on its trip to Malaga in order to maintain its advantage over Barcelona one week before the Spanish league rivals meet in a “clasico” match that could have big implications in the title race.

Madrid leads Atletico Madrid by three points, with Barcelona four points behind the leaders after their slip-up at Valladolid last weekend.

Barcelona welcomes relegation-battling Osasuna on Sunday, while Atletico hosts Espanyol a day earlier.

Madrid and Barcelona meet at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on March 23.

Here are five things to know about the 28th round of games ahead of the “clasico”:



Lionel Messi quickly beat back criticism of his recent play with a goalscoring performance in guiding Barcelona to a 2-1 victory over Manchester City in the Champions League.

Barcelona was not quite at its best, but with Messi looking motivated and playing with intensity the Catalans secured their familiar place in the last eight of Europe’s elite competition.

“I don’t know if the criticisms were exaggerated or not, but after losing we are the first to criticize ourselves,” Messi said. “The league isn’t lost, there still remains a lot to play for.”



After a week without action, Real Madrid will be well-rested ahead of its trip to Malaga on Saturday.

Madrid is unbeaten in 29 games overall and former coach Bernd Schuster would like nothing more than to disrupt the Spanish leader’s run at the expense of improving his team’s hopes of survival.

Schuster was fired by Madrid early in the 2009-10 season after saying it would be impossible to beat rival Barcelona, which was coached by Pep Guardiola and nine points clear atop the table.

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