Mallorca hand Valencia setback

Strugglers Real Mallorca blew a hole in Valencia's UEFA Champions League aspirations with a shock 3-1 win over the 2004 champions on Sunday. A brace from Jose Jurado and a Jose Marti penalty did the damage in the first half to leave Valencia four points behind Real Madrid and Sevilla with the pair having a game in hand.

Mallorca propped up the table before kick-off and Valencia started as strong pre-match favourites. However, the islanders took a surprise eighth-minute lead through Jurado and struck twice inside as many minutes with Marti converting a penalty before Jurado grabbed his second.

Mallorca moved off the bottom to be replaced by Osasuna. Valencia coach Unai Emery accepted blame for the defeat saying it was his darkest hour since taking charge in the summer. "This is my most painful day as coach," said Emery. "I am to blame and the defeat. It was my fault."

Atletico Madrid also lost ground on the top three after a 1-1 draw at Malaga who had won four out of their last five games in the league. They opened the scoring through Antonio Apono after 22 minutes. Dutch centre-half Johnny Heitinga equalised for Atletico just before half-time but they are now six points off Real and Sevilla.

Malaga are level on points with Atletico after a superb first half of the season. Elsewhere, Espanyol's third coach this season, Mauricio Pochettino, saw his side draw 1-1 with Valladolid in his first match in charge. Espanyol lie second from bottom four points from safety.

Pochettino's next task is to eliminate local neighbours Barcelona from the Kings Cup with the city rivals facing off at Camp Nou on Thursday in the quarter-final second leg with the first match finishing 0-0. Barcelona continued their march towards to the title with a resounding 4-1 over Numancia on Saturday to move 15 points clear at the summit.

Meanwhile, club president Joan Laporta accused Real of using the media to try to spread rumours about the possibility of Lionel Messi heading for the Santiago Bernabeu. Messi scored twice against Numancia to take his personal goals tally to 14 and vowed to stay at Camp Nou as long as he was wanted.

"I'll never leave Barca," said Messi. "I'll only leave if they throw me out. Barcelona is my home." Third-placed Sevilla can close to within 12 points of Barcelona with victory over Racing Santander later on Sunday. Champions Real aim to slash Barcelona's lead back to 12 points when they host Deportivo La Coruna.

Real are aiming for a fifth straight league victory while Dutch winger Arjen Robben, who celebrated his 25th birthday on Friday, is bidding to score for the fourth consecutive league game.

"I am in good form right now and physically speaking I feel phenomenal," said Robben.

"Things are going great for me. More importantly, however, we've put together a nice winning streak." Real lost 2-1 to Deportivo on the opening day of the season so will be geared up for revenge.