La Liga title race set to go down to the wire

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    Lionel Messi has scored twice to help Barcelona rebound from back-to-back losses and go into the next round at Real Madrid within striking distance of the Spanish league leader.

    Messi added an assist as Barcelona saw off a dangerous Real Sociedad side 3-2 at Camp Nou, with the defending champions struggling to end a run of defeats at Malaga in the league and Juventus in the Champions League.

    Madrid needed two goals from Francisco ‘Isco’ Alarcon, including his 90th-minute winner, to stay three points ahead of Barcelona at the top of the table after prevailing 3-2 at Sporting Gijon.

    Madrid also has a match in hand.

    Before the fierce rivals meet next round, both will play the return legs of their Champions League quarterfinals.

    Madrid welcome Bayern on Tuesday after winning the first leg 2-1, while Barcelona must overturn a 3-0 first-leg defeat to Juventus on Wednesday.

    Sociedad started strongly but it was Messi who struck first in the 17th with a sharply taken blast from outside the area that streaked into the lower corner of the net.

    Messi then scrambled in the ball after Luis Suarez’s shot was saved by Geronimo Rulli in the 37th, taking his league-leading tally to 29 goals.

    Sociedad, however, didn’t fade and got a goal back when Inigo Martinez’s shot took deflections off Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and defender Samuel Umtiti before going in.

    Messi passed for Paco Alcacer, starting for the suspended Neymar, to make it 3-1, only for Xabi Prieto to steer home Willian Jose’s pass in first-half injury time.

    Atletico Madrid defeated Osasuna 3-0 while Deportivo La Coruna downed Malaga 2-0.

    © AAP 2017