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Chasing pack keep one eye on Italians
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The Independent Online

The contenders for Spain's closest title race in many years are beginning to worry about how the resumption of Champions' League football next week might affect their domestic form as big matches in Europe pop up to distract their players just as La Liga enters a critical phase.

Real Madrid are back on top after a temporary slump, intensifying the pressure on Barcelona, who trail by three points, and Deportivo La Coruña, a point in front of Barça, to keep up. The two meet at the Nou Camp tonight in a match neither will contemplate losing but, with half a mind on next week, when second-phase Champions' League matches begin with Deportivo at Juventus on Tuesday and Barcelona facing Roma on Wednesday. On their return from Italy, the Catalans must prepare for an away game against Valencia, now second.

Madrid, who crushed Las Palmas 7-0 last week, are at home to Porto on Tuesday, before which is a visit to eighth-placed Athletic Bilbao tonight.

SPANISH LEAGUE (4.0 unless stated): Today: Athletic Bilbao v Real Madrid (7.0); Barcelona v Deportivo La Coruña (8.30); Villarreal v Valencia (8.0). Tomorrow: Alaves v Real Betis; Celta Vigo v Malaga (7.0); Las Palmas v Valladolid (6.0); Osasuna v Espanyol; Rayo Vallecano v Tenerife; Real Zaragoza v Real Mallorca; Sevilla v Real Sociedad.

ITALIAN LEAGUE (2.0 unless stated): Today: Juventus v Fiorentina; Milan v Atalanta (7.30). Tomorrow: Brescia v Roma; Parma v Torino; Perugia v Lecce; Piacenza v Venezia; Udinese v Bologna; Verona v Inter; Lazio v Chievo (7.30).

GERMAN LEAGUE: Today (2.30): Borussia Dortmund v Schalke 04; Kaiserslautern v Nuremberg; Borussia Mönchengladbach v Hamburg; St Pauli v Bayer Leverkusen; Freiburg v Bayern Munich; TSV 1860 Munich v Hertha Berlin; VfB Stuttgart v Wolfsburg. Tomorrow (4.30): Energie Cottbus v Hansa Rostock; Cologne v Werder Bremen.

FRENCH LEAGUE (7.0 unless stated): Today: Nantes v Lille (4.15); Marseilles v Metz; Bastia v Sochaux; Bordeaux v Montpellier; Guingamp v Rennes; Lens v Lorient; Sedan v Monaco; Troyes v Auxerre. Tomorrow: Lyon v Paris St-G (7.45).

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