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Soccer-Malaga held at Valladolid ahead of Porto clash

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

MADRID, March 9 (Reuters) - Malaga were denied a morale-boosting victory ahead of Wednesday's Champions League showdown at home to Porto when they were held to a 1-1 draw at Real Valladolid in La Liga on Saturday.

The Qatar-owned club must overturn a 1-0 deficit on Porto to reach the quarter-finals on their Champions League debut and coach Manuel Pellegrini left top performers Isco and Joaquin out of his team for the game at Valladolid's rain-lashed Jose Zorrilla stadium.

Argentine defender Martin Demichelis nodded Malaga ahead in the eighth minute before Angola striker Manucho headed the equaliser four minutes before halftime.

The draw leaves Malaga on 44 points in the fourth qualification spot for next season's Champions League.

Valencia can move on to 45 points with a win at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday (1100 GMT).

Rayo Vallecano improved their chances of securing a lucrative place in Europe next season when goals from Alejandro Dominguez and captain Piti gave the modest Madrid-based club a 2-0 win at home to Espanyol.

The victory lifted Rayo, who have 41 points from 27 matches, to eighth. Barcelona-based Espanyol are 13th on 32 points, three behind 10th-placed Valladolid.

Leaders Barcelona, who host AC Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday, can stretch their advantage over second-placed Atletico Madrid to 14 points with a win at home to bottom club Deportivo La Coruna later on Saturday (1900 GMT).

On Sunday, Atletico host seventh-placed Real Sociedad while champions Real Madrid, in third spot two points behind their city rivals and 11 ahead of Malaga, visit relegation-threatened Celta Vigo. (Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Tony Jimenez)

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