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Atletico closes in on 1st league title in 18 years
5 things to know about the Spanish league as Atletico hopes for Real, Barca to slip up
By PAUL LOGOTHETIS
Associated Press
2014-05-01 11:22 PM

MADRID (AP) -- Atletico Madrid can follow up its feat of reaching the Champions League final by winning its first Spanish league title in 18 years if closest rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid slip up this weekend.

Atletico beat Chelsea to reach its first European Cup final in 40 years on Wednesday and, for an encore, it can take another step toward its first league championship since 1996 with a victory at Levante on Sunday.

Madrid, meanwhile, is also riding high after powering past Bayern Munich in its Champions League semifinal to help set up the first ever city derby in a European Cup final.

Madrid plays against Valencia on Sunday, hours after Atletico's match, so it will be aware of what is necessary to remain in the race.

Atletico has 88 points with three rounds to play, Barcelona is second with 84 points ahead of its game against Getafe on Saturday. Madrid has 82 points but still has four games left to play.

Here are five things to know about this weekend's La Liga action:

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MADRID CLUBS ON A HIGH

Both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid must harness the momentum from its impressive Champions League victories as they find themselves fighting each other for the domestic title as well.

The teams will play for the European Cup in Lisbon on May 24, but La Liga is still very much up for grabs before that.

"We've got to focus on the game against Levante and nothing more," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. "We've got to recover and move forward game by game."

Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa is available after being sidelined nearly two months to a knee injury.

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BARCELONA ON BRINK

Barcelona faces a must-win match against Getafe on Saturday as it looks to avoid its first trophyless season since 2006-07. If Barcelona fails to maintain the pressure on Atletico it will have no chance of retaining its league title.

"We know that we're dependent on other results and that certainly complicates things," Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said on Thursday. "But we have hope. We need to exhaust all of our possibilities."

Barcelona winger Isaac Cuenca was cleared to return from a knee injury.

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ATHLETIC ON VERGE

Athletic Bilbao needs just three points from its final three games to clinch a place in next season's Champions League, and plays at Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.

Athletic is six points ahead of fifth-place Sevilla, including a better head-to-head advantage, as it closes in on returning to Europe's elite competition for the first time since the 1998-99 season.

"Nothing has been achieved yet (for the Champions League)," said coach Ernesto Valverde, whose club is assured of at least Europa League football. "The players have no fear, we know what it has taken to get this far and that we have to win every game."

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XABI'S PAIN

Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso looks almost certain to play in all of the team's remaining domestic fixtures after his booking against Bayern Munich in the Champions League left him out of the final.

Alonso certainly showed his disappointment after picking up the booking, but that only means the Spain international will be motivated for matches against Valencia, Real Valladolid, Celta Vigo, and Espanyol.

"We're all very sad about Xabi's booking, because he is a player who would be very important in the final. It was very unfair," Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said.

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TITO REMEMBERED

Barcelona will pay tribute to former coach Tito Vilanova on Saturday when it plays Getafe at Camp Nou.

It will be the first chance the Catalan club gets to remember Vilanova at its home stadium since his passing from throat cancer last week at age 45.

Barcelona will sport a "Tito, Always Eternal" slogan across the front of its jerseys, while the 99,000-capacity stadium will display a message in honor of Vilanova in the stands. Spectators and players will also watch some of the top moments from Vilanova's time with the club during a pre-match video.

"Tito's presence will be with us for our final games," Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said.

Vilanova guided Barcelona to the Spanish league title last season in his only season in charge after replacing Pep Guardiola.

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Follow Paul Logothetis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP

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