Rival watch: Atlético, Real Madrid maintain the pressure with 1-0 wins; Espanyol top Sevilla ahead of derby

Rival watch: Atlético, Real Madrid maintain the pressure with 1-0 wins; Espanyol top Sevilla ahead of derby

FC Barcelona’s victory against Betis made more important by their fellow title contenders Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid both collecting three points from their Saturday fixtures as well; Espanyol win ahead of derby

There is no change at the top of the table after not only Barça beat Betis 2-0, but Real Madrid and Atlético also won their games on Saturday. But instead of three, there are now just two games left to play – so it’s Barça that can most afford to smile at the end of an intense of football..

Gareth Bale came to the rescue for a Real Madrid team missing both Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, and who simply could not find a way past a stubborn Real Sociedad until the 80th minute. It was then that the Welshman’s header finally won them three points to temporarily go top of the table.

Atlético Madrid replaced them in pole position two hours later after also winning their game 1-0. With a Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich to come midweek, manager Diego Simeone opted to leave both Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres on the bench for the local derby with Rayo Vallecano. It was big gamble, and after 55 minutes there was still no score. On went the two strikers, and with his first touch of the ball, Griezmann found the net.

The results leave Barça top with 85 points, the same as Atlético who have an inferior head-to-head goal differential, and Real down in third with 84.

Next weekend's games, which correspond to Match Day 37 in La Liga, will all be played simultaneously next Sunday at 5.00pm.

The top three team's all find themselves in must-win situations. Barça will host Espanyol at Camp Nou, while Atlético will be at Levante and Real Madrid will entertain Valencia.

Espanyol, for their part, took an enormous step towards avoiding relegation by beating visiting Sevilla this Sunday by a score of 1–0 at Cornellà-El Prat. Felipe Caicedo scored for the blanquiazules just seven minutes after half-time to secure three gargantuan points that puts them five above the relegation zone in 15th place with two games to play.

[[BOTOVERMELL::LA LIGA TABLE++::http://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/first-team/spanish-league::HOR::::NO-TRACKING::::::]]

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