Leo Messi / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Athletic Bilbao have clearly put their Cup finals as top priority as the season draws to a climax and they suffered their second defeat on the run ahead of next week’s Europa Cup final, when they were beaten 0-3 by Real Madrid, who thus ensured their first title in four years. Cristiano Ronaldo missed another penalty after his costly mistake in the shoot out against Bayern, but made up for it by helping to set up Higuain’s opener and Ozil’s second, before scoring the third himself. Bilbao’s defeat means they drop to eighth place with 48 points and a Champions League spot is now impossible.

Late flurry sets up Valencia

Valencia, on the other hand, took a massive step towards a place in Europe’s top competition, beating Osasuna 4-0, with Aduriz and Jonas both scoring twice in the last 15 minutes to sink a brave Osasuna who had played with 10 men after Lakic was sent off on the stroke of half time. Valencia are now on 58 points, three ahead of Malaga, with Levante, who were beaten 1-0 at Zaragoza, three points further behind in fifth. Of the seven teams below Valencia, only Mallorca won – beating Rayo 1-0 and leapfrogging Bilbao and Osasuna into seventh on 49 points. Atletico Madrid are sixth on 50 after a rather disappointing 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad, as Simeone’s team also seemed to be more concerned about the Europa Cup final than their league chances, with the two dropped points meaning that they are still mathematically in with a chance of a Champions League spot – but only just!

Rayo slipping into the danger zone

Rayo’s defeat means that they are now fourth from bottom on 40 points – just three ahead of Zaragoza, who got their win thanks to a goal from ex-Barça B man Edu Oriol. Sporting lost any real hope of staying in the top flight when they went down 2-3 to Villarreal on Tuesday. The pressure in the packed Molinon, with nearly 30,000 urging their team on, proved too much for Sporting boss Clemente, who was sent off for protesting, whilst Villareal’s veteran reserve keeper Cesar was also shown red from the bench after an altercation with a spectator. The win lifts Villarreal to 16th, a point ahead of Rayo, whilst Sporting stay on 34.

Espanyol and Seville’s Euro hopes take a beating

Espanyol again failed to turn up at Granada, where they were beaten 2-1, which virtually ensured the hosts stay in the top flight and destroyed any hopes of European football at El Prat next season. Espanyol have won just once in their last nine games ahead of this weekend’s derby game and slipped to 13th – just three points ahead of Granada. Seville are also suffering a bad run that has virtually ruled them out of Europe next season and their 1-2 derby defeat to Betis – who ensured survival with the three points – leaves them 10th, level on points with their city neighbours and Getafe, who drew 1-1 with the already relegated Racing on Tuesday.