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Coach Pep Guardiola has left the star Spanish trio on the bench for the must-win Liga fixture, with the Catalans looking to close ground on their fierce rivals at the top

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has left Xavi, Carles Puyol and Cesc Fabregas out of his starting line-up for Sunday's Primera Division clash at Malaga as the Catalans look ahead to Wednesday night's Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg clash at home to Real Madrid.

Victor Valdes returns in goal after being left out for last Wednesday's cup clash at the Santiago Bernabeu, which Barca won 2-1, while Adriano comes in at left-back, Thiago starts alongside defensive midfielders Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano in the centre of the park and Andres Iniesta is promoted to a forward role alongside Lionel Messi and Alexis Sanchez.

Malaga, meanwhile, are missing midfielders Jeremy Toulalan and Joaquin.

Coach Manuel Pellegrini has picked a strong line-up, nevertheless, with former Madrid striker Ruud van Nistelrooy alone up front.

Goalkeeper Carlos Kameni, signed earlier this week from Espanyol, is on the bench for the Andalusians.

This fixture was due to take place on the opening weekend of the Liga season, but was called off due to a players' strike.

Barcelona are currently five points behind Madrid at the top of the Primera Division.

Malaga (4-2-3-1): Caballero; Gamez, Demichelis, Mathijsen, Monreal; Camacho, Maresca; Isco, Cazorla, Eliseu; Van Nistelrooy

Subs: Kameni, Sanchez, Recio, Fernandez, Weligton, Duda, Rondon

Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Pique, Abidal, Adriano; Busquets, Mascherano, Thiago; Iniesta, Messi, Alexis

Subs: Pinto, Puyol, Cuenca, Jonathan, Xavi, Cesc, Pedro

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