Atletico Madrid’s title hopes suffered a setback on Sunday as a shock 2-1 defeat at Athletic Bilbao handed Barcelona the higher hand in an exhilarating race on the prime of La Liga.
Actual Madrid’s draw with Actual Betis on Saturday gave Atletico the prospect to drag additional clear however as an alternative they ended the weekend with their lead decreased, a loss at San Mames the most recent twist in Europe’s most unpredictable home chase.
Barca had earlier crushed Villarreal by the identical scoreline, with Antoine Griezmann’s quick-fire double turning into all of the extra helpful after one other Atletico slip.
Sevilla have largely been missed as attainable champions in Spain however they’re proper within the combine as nicely now after a 2-1 win over Granada places them simply three factors off the highest and one behind Actual Madrid.
But Barcelona had been the most important winners, with Ronald Koeman’s group capable of go prime of the desk in the event that they win their recreation in hand at house to Granada on Thursday, even when Atletico may need a manner again given they’re nonetheless to play at Camp Nou on Could 8.
Actual Madrid host Sevilla a day later.
“There are 4 of us in that race and now emotionally, those that have the psychological power will likely be nearer to successful,” stated Atletico coach Diego Simeone.
“We nonetheless know that we rely on ourselves.”
Atletico have first place, for now not less than, however they could be the least convincing of all of the contenders.
Shedding to Athletic Bilbao means they’ve gained solely six of their final 14 league video games, with the momentum gained from consecutive wins over Eibar and Huesca proving short-lived.
The way in which a few of Simeone’s gamers dropped to their knees on the last whistle instructed this consequence, psychologically, could possibly be troublesome to get well from.
Alex Berengeur had already nodded in Ander Capa’s cross within the eighth minute and Athletic ought to have doubled their benefit within the second half however Oihan Sancet fired over.
Luis Suarez, Joao Felix and Thomas Lemar all got here on and Atletico grabbed a lifeline when Stefan Savic’s flicked header discovered its manner contained in the again publish with 13 minutes left.
Simeone pumped his fists, urging his gamers to hunt a winner, however as an alternative there was a sucker-punch from Athletic, Inigo Martinez darting free within the field and powering an outstanding header previous Jan Oblak with 4 minutes remaining.
– Griezmann fires Barca –
Barcelona are absolutely now favourites so as to add a La Liga title to the Copa del Rey they gained earlier this month.
Villarreal struck first via Samuel Chukwueze however Griezmann equalised with a luxurious lob earlier than capitalising on a misplaced backpass to make it two.
Helped by a pink card for Villarreal’s Manu Trigueros shortly after the hour, Barcelona held on for a vital win.
“The gamers are hungry to win one other trophy,” stated Koeman.
“The league is nearer, I do not understand how a lot nearer, however it’s. We’re on a superb run and if we win the six video games left, we will likely be champions.”
Griezmann began on the bench for the defeat by Actual Madrid however has been recalled for the final three video games in a row, repaying the religion with a objective now in every.
It stays to be seen whether or not Barcelona see the 30-year-old as an opportunity to boost funds in the summertime, and in addition whether or not the provides are there, however Griezmann now has 23 targets this season, and 15 for the reason that flip of the yr.
Sevilla, in the meantime, pushed their case for the title and assured their place within the prime 4 however their win over Granada will likely be remembered for the weird manner it ended.
Each groups had been made to return again out and play one other minute after referee Ricardo de Burgos admitted he blew too early for full-time.
Sevilla’s gamers had already left and a few of them had began to take their package off, with midfielder Fernando pictured with out his shirt on within the stands, shaking his head in disbelief.
Marcos Acuna needed to put his boots, socks and shinpads again on.
“The referee stopped it as a result of he thought time was up after which he instructed us he’d made a mistake,” stated Sevilla’s Lucas Ocampos.
“It was completed. I’ve by no means seen something prefer it. We had mainly taken our package off.”
Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui stated: “The actually essential factor is Sevilla has achieved one thing historic. The trouble of those gamers has been extraordinary.”