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    Barcelona register hard-fought win over Levante

    Cesc Fabregas scored late to give Barcelona a hard-fought 1-0 win over Levante.

    Barcelona: Cesc Fabregas scored late to give Barcelona a hard-fought 1-0 win over Levante, while Real Madrid beat Real Betis 3-1 on Saturday as both Spanish powerhouses prepared for the Champions League semi-finals.

    With top-scorer Lionel Messi out trying to heal his right hamstring in time for Tuesday's first leg at Bayern Munich, Barcelona's attack lacked the pace and creativity to break through Levante's disciplined defense until Fabregas struck six minutes from time.

    David Villa had a golden chance to score for Barcelona in the 17th minute after Levante's Papakouly Diop fouled Andres Iniesta in the area.

    But goalkeeper Keylor Navas blocked Villa's spot kick and sprung to his feet in time to parry Fabregas' point-blank rebound attempt. Barcelona responded after coach Tito Vilanova sent on Xavi Hernandez and Alexis Sanchez in the second half, with the Chile forward finding Fabregas in the area to rifle the ball just inside the far post before two defenders could close him out.

    The victory kept Barcelona well on pace to reclaim the Spanish league title with a 13-point lead and six rounds to play.

    Barcelona defender Eric Abidal played well - and the full 90 minutes - in his first start since playing for France in a friendly against Germany in February 2012.

    La Liga