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Messi moves closer to 50-goal milestone

updated 6:33 PM EST, Sat February 23, 2013
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring the winner at home to Sevilla on Saturday.
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring the winner at home to Sevilla on Saturday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lionel Messi scores his 49th goal this season as Barcelona come from behind to beat Sevilla
  • Victory puts Catalan side 12 points clear of Atletico Madrid, who play Espanyol on Sunday
  • Real Madrid also win 2-1 ahead of this week's two Clasico matches against Spanish rivals
  • Kaka equalizes against Deportivo and helps Ronaldo set up Higuain's late winner

(CNN) -- Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo warmed up for next week's "Clasico" double-header as Spanish soccer rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid labored to victories on Saturday.

Messi scored for the 15th successive league match as Barca came from behind to beat Sevilla and move 12 points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid.

The four-time world player of the year took his tally to 38 in the league this season from 25 matches, and 49 overall, as he combined well with second-half substitute Cristian Tello to slot a 60th-minute winner.

David Villa had marked his return to action with a 52nd-minute equalizer, heading home Dani Alves' cross. The striker had missed the midweek Champions League defeat by AC Milan due to his problem with kidney stones.

Another shock defeat had seemed on the cards when Sevilla exposed Barca's frailties at the back three minutes before halftime, as former La Masia academy defender Alberto Botia headed home a cross.

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Barca did not include Eric Abidal in the squad, though the French defender was on Thursday cleared to make his long-awaited comeback following a liver transplant.

Earlier Saturday, Ronaldo came off the bench to help earn a 2-1 victory for Real against bottom club Deportivo la Coruna.

Coach Jose Mourinho had made seven changes following last weekend's win over Rayo Vallecano, ahead of Tuesday's second leg of the Spanish Super Cup at Barca's Camp Nou.

It was Deportivo who took the lead as Riki beat Diego Lopez at the near post with a shot the goalkeeper should have blocked.

It took a moment of magic from Kaka for Real to draw level with 17 minutes to play, as the Brazil midfielder curled in a right-foot shot to bring back memories of his days as one of the world's best players.

Kaka, who started the match, was also involved in the 88th minute winner, splitting the Deportivo defense with a pass that allowed Ronaldo to square into the path of Gonzalo Higuain.

The Argentina striker was untroubled in netting his 100th La Liga goal for Real in 179 appearances.

"From the first minute of the second half we saw a change of attitude," Mourinho's assistant Aitor Karanka told reporters.

"We didn't win because of the substitutions, which were made in the 12th minute of the second half, but because of the change we made. It was the attitude of all the players that sparked the comeback."

It is a big 10 days for third-placed Real, who host Barca in La Liga next Saturday before traveling to England for the second leg of the Champions League last-16 clash with Manchester United.

Both Spanish Cup and European ties are finely balanced at 1-1.

"It was a difficult match, it was an uphill struggle for us from the first minute, but we had to demonstrate that we wanted to win and we were able to do that," Higuain said.

"We are excited and we want to play because we know that in a week we are playing to stay in the Copa and the Champions."

Valencia missed the chance to move above fourth-placed Malaga, needing to come from 2-0 down at struggling Real Zaragoza as Brazilian winger Jonas netted both goals to earn a draw.

Getafe moved up to ninth, winning 3-1 at second-bottom Real Mallorca thanks to two late goals from striker Adrian Colunga.

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