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Race on for second in La Liga, Sevilla look to hold on for top four

Real Madrid might be out of sight in the title race but Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are still fighting for second while their place in La Liga’s top four is still not quite secure.

Sevilla, in particular, are in danger of dropping out, with their local rivals Real Betis only four points behind and gaining ground.

Slipping out of the Champions League qualification places after spending most of the season hoping to challenge for the title would be a bitter pill to swallow for Sevilla and might even raise questions about the future of their coach, Julen Lopetegui.

A slump in form, that has included only two wins in their last 10 league games, means nothing is guaranteed, especially with trips to both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid still to come.

There will be no consolation in the cups either, after Sevilla crashed out to West Ham in the Europa League last 16 having already lost to Betis in the Copa del Rey.

A home game against Granada on Friday should be the perfect chance to restore morale, given Granada, who sit three points above the relegation zone, have themselves won only once since December.

Anything other than a victory at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan really would set alarm bells ringing, especially if Betis reduce the gap further by winning at struggling Cadiz on Saturday.

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are level on points with Sevilla but neither appear as vulnerable, with Barca owning a game in hand and the best form in the league since the turn of the year.

Xavi Hernandez’s team travel to Levante on Sunday, looking to make it seven league wins in a row and extend an unbeaten run that stretches back to December 4.

After thrashing Real Madrid in the Clasico before the international break, there was even hope Barca might set up a dramatic finish in the title race.

Those hopes appear to be over after Madrid scraped past Celta Vigo last weekend before a stirring 3-1 win at Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday gave the look of a team set for a strong finish.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side play Getafe at home on Saturday.

If Barcelona, who have a game in hand, can pip Atletico Madrid to second, that would still represent a resounding success, given Xavi took over in November with the team lying ninth and Champions League qualification in serious doubt.

“Nothing is done yet,” said Xavi. “We’re second and as long as it’s mathematically possible to win the title, we’ll keep fighting.”

Atletico will likely push Barca hard, after hitting their own best patch of the season in recent weeks.

Six consecutive victories and the emergence of Joao Felix as the team’s lead striker have stabilised Diego Simeone’s team, who are still in with a shot of reaching the Champions League semi-finals after a 1-0 defeat at Manchester City on Tuesday.

They will host City in the return leg next week, after facing Mallorca on Saturday.

In the battle for the Europa League, Villarreal are at home to Athletic Bilbao on the back of their sensational 1-0 win over Bayern Munich on Wednesday at La Ceramica. Real Sociedad, in sixth, play away at Elche.

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