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Real loss to Valencia leaves Barcelona on brink of crown

VALENCIA tore Real Madrid apart 3-0 on Saturday to give Barcelona the chance to wrap up the Primera Liga title as early as yesterday's game against Villarreal.

Real's 2-6 defeat by Barcelona last weekend looked to have taken a heavy toll as Valencia scored twice in three first-half minutes through Juan Mata and David Silva, with Ruben Baraja added a stunning third after the break.

Real is second with 78 points and three games left, seven points short of Champions League finalist Barcelona, which has four to play.

The first of those games is at home to Villarreal later, when a victory would be enough to see the Catalans over the line.

Earlier, third-placed Sevilla was inspired to a 3-1 home win over Real Mallorca by Luis Fabiano.

That moved it on to 63 points and kept it four ahead of chasing Valencia in the race for the Champions League qualification places.

Real keeper Iker Casillas pulled off a magnificent early save at the Mestalla with his team firmly on the backfoot, but he was beaten in the 29th minute when Valencia's attacking trio of Silva, Mata and David Villa combined for a slick opener.

Mata put away Villa's layoff, and soon after Silva cut in off the left flank and fired in from distance only for Casillas to weakly push the ball inside his near post.

The visitors were helpless in the face of Valencia's quick, incisive attacks and in the 68th Baraja rubbed salt in the wound with a spectacular volley from outside the area.

At the Sanchez Pizjuan, Aritz Aduriz had given Mallorca an early lead before Sevilla's Brazil striker Fabiano was brought down for a penalty as he surged into the area.

Frederic Kanoute's dummy sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot, before Fabiano spun away from his marker in midfield and burst away from three defenders to net Sevilla's second on the hour mark.

Jesus Navas jinked in off the right wing to seal the win.

Athletic Bilbao secured its top-flight future with a 1-0 home win over Real Betis, which remains just three points above the drop zone.

In Italy, Reggina's hopes of avoiding relegation from Serie A suffered a hammer blow when it was thrashed 0-5 at Sampdoria on Saturday.

The bottom side, which picked up valuable points in recent weeks, lost Carlos Valdez to a 19th-minute red card and never recovered.

Reggina is three points from safety and has three games remaining while its rivals have four.

Mid-table Sampdoria left playmaker Antonio Cassano on the bench with one eye on Wednesday's Italian Cup final against Lazio but still romped to victory.

Lazio warmed up less well for Wednesday, losing 1-3 to Udinese.

Inter could win the title later yesterday if it wins at Chievo and AC Milan loses at home to Juventus.


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