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Barcelona stretches lead

MADRID: Barcelona moved seven points clear in La Liga after Real Madrid showed plenty of effort but insufficient invention as it drew 0-0 against a well-organised Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.

After Barcelona's 3-0 win over Mallorca earlier, the pressure was on Real which went into the late game in confident mood after three consecutive wins.

Barcelona had shrugged off claims that it was starting to feel the strain as a makeshift team overcame Mallorca.

Barça had not been at its best as it lost to Arsenal in the Champions League and then struggled to beat Athletic Bilbao. Injuries to Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes suggested that the exertion was starting to take its toll.

Messi strikes

With Dani Alves also suspended it was an unfamiliar looking Barça side but after Messi opened the scoring with a header following hesitation in the penalty area, it never looked back. David Villa may have been narrowly offside as he raced clear of the defence to increase the lead and then Pedro Rodriguez completed the scoring.

The results:

Spanish league: Atletico Madrid 2 (Koke 47, Reyes 76) drew with Sevilla 2 (Negredo 41, Rakitic 66); Sporting Gijon 0 drew with Real Zaragoza 0; Espanyol 4 (Estrada 42-og, Sergio Garcia 54, Callejon 81, Marquez 90+1) bt Real Sociedad 1 (Estrada 43); Real Mallorca 0 lost to Barcelona 3 (Messi 38, Villa 57, Pedro 66); Deportivo La Coruna 0 drew with Real Madrid 0.

Italian league: Juventus 0 lost to Bologna 2 (Di Vaio 49, 66).

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