Barca & Real set up final day decider

MADRID - Barcelona moved to within a whisker of a second straight La Liga crown when Lionel Messi, Bojan Krkic and Pedro earned a nervy 3-2 win at 10-man Sevilla on Saturday.

Real Madrid kept the gap to one point with one match left when a late flurry of goals gave them a 5-1 victory at home to Athletic Bilbao, who also had a player sent off, but Barca now only need a win at home to lowly Real Valladolid next weekend to make sure of the title.

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Barca beat arch rivals Real in both this season's "Clasicos" and have lost only once all season, scoring 94 goals and conceding 24.

They extended their record points tally to 96 from 37 matches with Real in second on 95 and Valencia, who lost 2-0 at Villarreal but are already assured of a Champions League spot in third, trailing on 68.

Sevilla are fourth on 60 and Real Mallorca fifth on 59 after their 1-0 defeat at Deportivo La Coruna.

Real's final match is at Malaga, who are one place below Valladolid after a 2-1 reverse at sixth-placed Getafe and also fighting to avoid the drop.

"We are not going to lose hope," Real defender Sergio Ramos, who netted his side's third goal, told reporters.

"We have to carry on doing our jobs and if Barca win the league with 99 points they'll have to be congratulated."


Barca had already surpassed the previous La Liga record of 92 accumulated by Real under Fabio Capello in the 1996-97 season when there were 22 teams rather than 20.

La Liga top scorer Messi put them in front in the fifth minute at the Sanchez Pizjuan when he controlled Maxwell's pass on his chest and drilled a low shot past goalkeeper Andres Palop for his 32nd of the season.

A sublime first-time pass from midfielder Xavi sent teenager Bojan clear to score a second for the visitors in the 28th and Barca looked to be cruising when Pedro added a third with a snap shot from the edge of the area in the 62nd.

Two Sevilla goals inside three second-half minutes from Frederic Kanoute and Luis Fabiano set Barca's nerves jangling, coach Pep Guardiola at one point smashing the side of the dugout three times with his elbow in frustration.

The final whistle prompted wild celebrations from the Barca players and their knot of travelling fans high in the stands.

"You can never write off Sevilla and we suffered at times," goalkeeper Victor Valdes told reporters. "We have to keep in mind now that