Madrid: Valencia continue to struggle since Christmas as they could only draw 1-1 in a scrappy game against Osasuna but still hold a five point lead over Levante, who face Zaragoza later, in the fight for third place.
A late goal from Roberto Soldado with five minutes to go looked as though it would give Valencia a victory they did little to deserve but then in injury time midfielder David Albelda was given a straight red for a rash challenge and from the resulting free-kick Osasuna equalised.
Keeper Diego Alves could only knock the ball back into play after a header from Dejan Lekic and substitute Lolo Ortiz rammed it home from close range.
Valencia were looking to bounce back from a home defeat by Real Sociedad last weekend but chances were few and far between in a cagey first half.
After the break the Valencia keeper did well to repel a header from Raul Garica and then a free-kick from Javad Nekounam, and the game was petering out until the dramatic finale.
Later with the dust still settling on Barcelona's victory over Real Madrid in the King's Cup in midweek, Pep Guardiola's side take on Malaga aiming to claw back the five-point gap from leaders Real who are also in action against Athletic Bilbao.
It is only the halfway stage in the cup quarter-final with the arch-rivals meeting again next week, but Barca cannot afford to be distracted especially with their disappointing away form where they have won only three out of eight games.
Last weekend at the Nou Camp they looked defensively frail in the 4-2 win over Real Betis.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola admitted his side need a victory over Malaga to keep the pressure on Real.
"We have not had a bad first half to the season but we know that if we drop more points away from home we will not be champions," he said.
"We will play Malaga looking to defend well and attack well and win the game. We know how important this game is with the position in the league so we cannot afford to drop more points."