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Barcelona set for Elche clash

Barcelona, Spain (SportsNetwork.com) - Barcelona will look to claim sole possession of the top spot in La Liga on Sunday when the defending champions host newcomers Elche at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona has been in top form most of the season, tasting defeat just once in their first 17 domestic matches this campaign.

The Catalans fell behind in their last league match before the holiday break as goals from Lisandro Lopez and Sergio Escudero gave Getafe a quick 2-0 lead. But Barca roared to life as Pedro scored a natural hat trick with goals in the 34th, 41st and 43rd minutes to give his club a 3-2 lead at the intermission.

Getafe never recovered from Pedro's onslaught and the defending champions put the result away in the second half when Cesc Fabregas fired home a brace with goals in the 68th and 72nd minutes to make it a 5-2 result for Barcelona.

"We conceded two goals because we were relaxed, but the team reacted and we ended up playing a good game," said defender Jordi Alba. "In general we played a good game. We're happy that we ended the year as league leaders, we got an important victory."

Barcelona ended 2013 on top of La Liga despite missing several key players, namely goalkeeper Victor Valdes and superstar forward Lionel Messi.

Valdes has missed the past 44 days due to an injury suffered in an international friendly against South Africa, but he has been cleared and will be available for selection against Elche.

"After this afternoon's training session, Victor Valdes was given the green light to return to competitive football. Therefore, he's available for selection for this Sunday's match against Elche," a club statement read.

Messi, meanwhile, has been out of action for almost three months after sustaining a torn hamstring against Real Betis in October.

He returned to his native Argentina to rest and recover and returned to first- team training this week, but will not feature for the Catalans on Sunday.

"Leo Messi landed in Barcelona this afternoon and went directly to the Ciutat Esportiva to meet up with his teammates and get fitted for new boots ahead of the team's training session," the club said in a statement.

Also on Sunday in La Liga, Sevilla will aim to climb into the top five when the club begins the new year against Getafe at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

Osasuna welcomes Espanyol to the Estadio El Sadar, while Real Sociedad can inch closer to the top four with a victory over Athletic Bilbao at the Anoeta.

On Saturday, co-leaders Atletico Madrid will look to go top of the table with a three-point effort against Malaga at the Estadio La Rosaleda, while Real Valladolid hosts bottom-of-the-table Real Betis at the Jose Zorrilla.

Valencia welcomes Levante to the Mestalla, while newcomers Almeria host Granada at the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterraneos.

Finally, on Monday, Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid host relegation-battling Celta Vigo at the Bernabeu, while Rayo Vallecano will attempt to hoist itself out of the bottom three with a win against Villarreal at the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas.

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