Race for fourth place heating up in La Liga

Real Madrid may have the La Liga title all sewn up, but there is still plenty of drama in store for the final two weeks of the season.

The race for fourth place is especially heating up as one of any four teams could clinch the vital spot by next weekend. Despite a 4-1 loss to Barcelona last time out, Malaga currently holds the position with a three-point cushion.

Wednesday's loss to Barcelona may have been somewhat debilitating with so much on the line down the final haul of the season, but it may be remembered for the history that was made.

Lionel Messi broke the record for most goals scored in a European season, but Malaga's Duda was able to cement his own legacy, going level with Fernando Sanz and Camacho for the most appearances in club history with 205. He will break the record with an appearance against Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

"I am happy to reach this landmark figure but the important thing is to focus on our next match against Atletico Madrid, which is like a final because of what we play for," said the Portuguese midfielder after the loss.

Breaking the record with a win at the Vicente Calderon would only serve to underline Duda's accomplishment.

"I am happy because we have reached an objective and now we will try to finish in the highest league position possible while fighting for the Champions League," Duda said. "We are here demonstrating why we are so high up the league table. If we continue like this I am sure we will take the game against Atletico Madrid and then our last La Liga game of the season will be against Sporting Gijon at home."

The match is vital for Atletico as well as Diego Simone's men can climb ahead of Malaga in the table with three points at the weekend.

Levante and Mallorca are the two other teams in contention for a fourth-place finish, and they will cap a weekend with massive Champions League qualification implications when they meet at the Estadio Son Moix on Saturday.

The race to avoid relegation has become quite complicated as well. Any two of five teams could join Racing in the Segunda Division next season.

Racing was assured relegation with a 1-1 draw at Getafe last time out, and the club will be looking to spoil Real Zaragoza's chances of staying afloat in Spain's top flight when the two sides meet at the Estadio La Romareda.

Rayo Vallecano is in the worst form of any club in La Liga at the moment, dropping all the way to 17th place after five successive losses. It will look to get back in the win column in a bid to save its season by taking three points at Sevilla.

Sporting Gijon has won three of its last five league games but still sits second from bottom and will likely need to take maximum points from its final two games to have a chance of avoiding relegation. It starts Saturday when the club welcomes Real Betis to the El Molinon.

Also in the relegation battle are Villarreal and Granada, who will face Valencia and Real Madrid, respectively, on Saturday.

Rounding out La Liga action Saturday, Athletic Bilbao hosts Getafe, Barcelona hosts Espanyol and Osasuna hosts Real Sociedad.