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    Barca take aim at 3rd straight La Liga title

    Barcelona: Fresh from ending Real Madrid's hopes of reaching the Champions League final, Barcelona can inflict further pain on its fiercest rival by clinching its third consecutive Spanish league title on Sunday.

    If Madrid fails to win at Sevilla on Saturday, Barcelona can win its 21st league title by beating Catalan rival Espanyol on Sunday.

    Barcelona eliminated Madrid 3-1 on aggregate in the Champions League semifinals on Tuesday, ending an ill-tempered series of four matches between the teams within 18 days.

    Manchester United will meet Barcelona in the final at Wembley Stadium in England on May 28.

    "It is important that we win the league so we can prepare for the match at Wembley," Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said.

    Not since Barcelona's "Dream Team" of the 1990s has a Spanish club won three straight domestic titles, which would be the club's fifth in the past seven years.

    Barcelona's 31-game league unbeaten run came to an end last Saturday with a 2-1 defeat at Real Sociedad, leaving the club one match shy of matching the record. But the Catalans can set a different record by winning their last four games to become the first Spanish team to finish a season with 100 points.

    "These have been 20 extremely hard, tiring and intense days with a lot of tension," Guardiola said of the four national derbies. "Now we have four games to win the most important competition of the season, La Liga."

    Guardiola acknowledged that Espanyol will have a physical advantage as well.

    "Now we play Espanyol, a team which always pushes us very hard. It will be a very tough game," Guardiola said. "We have to dig down deep to get the energy from who knows where to close out the league and then recover players for the Champions final."

    Espanyol historically gives its all in the Catalan capital derby and is challenging for a Europa League spot after last round's win over Athletic Bilbao kept it in thick of a four-way fight for the three spots in Europe's second-tier competition.

    Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino, who recently agreed to a two-year extension until 2014, said his players "will go on war" on Sunday at Camp Nou stadium.

    "We have shown that we can stand up and play against anyone in this league," the Argentine coach, a former Espanyol player, said. "The match will be vibrant, like every derby."

    Madrid is set to be left with just the Copa del Rey to show for Jose Mourinho's first season in charge of the Spanish giant, although being a victory over Barcelona has given that achievement added significance.

    Whether Madrid can pick itself up after its emotionally draining Champions League derby against Barcelona will be tested at the Sanchez Pizjuan, where Mourinho returns to the sidelines after being banned for Tuesday's game at the Camp Nou.

    The Spanish giant fell to lowly Zaragoza at home last week as the team was notably affected by its loss to Barcelona in the first leg of its semifinal series. Madrid will now have to try to regain its composure unless it wants to see Barcelona celebrating for the second time in six days.

    "The semifinal series (with Barcelona) is over and we now look to the future but that is not to say that we are satisfied," Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso said. "The frustration for what has happened is evident."

    Fifth-place Sevilla and sixth-place Atletico Madrid have 52 points, while Bilbao has 51 and Espanyol has 48.

    In other games, third-place Valencia welcomes Real Sociedad with the last automatic qualifying spot for the Champions League still in contention as fourth-place Villarreal remains just three points behind. The Yellow Submarine will try for its first win in three away games at Mallorca in an unconventional early kickoff on Sunday.

    Bottom place Almeria can be the first team to be relegated on Saturday if it loses in its visit to a Getafe side also struggling to escape the drop zone.

    Hercules, just one place above Almeria, is also staring at the drop as it sits five points from safety before its game with Racing Santander.

    Sporting Gijon plays Deportivo La Coruna, Atletico hosts Malaga, Bilbao welcomes league surprise Levante and Zaragoza completes the 35th round in a matchup with fellow struggler Osasuna.