On Sunday, Atletico Madrid was defeated 1-0 by Sevilla in LaLiga, allowing Barcelona the opportunity to climb to within a point of the top of the table on Monday.
Sevilla’s Marcos Acuna headed in the winner at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, easing Atletico’s hold on first place and allowing their in-form rivals to capitalize.
Real Madrid is just three points back after beating Eibar on Saturday, and Barcelona will cut their lead to one point if they defeat Real Valladolid at home on Monday.
It means that Spain’s championship race is unexpectedly wide open, just two months after Atletico Madrid led both Barcelona and Real Madrid by ten points with a game in hand.
They have only won four of their last 12 games, with losses to Chelsea denying them a spot in the Champions League and daily losses in LaLiga potentially costing them the championship.
“Honestly, I don’t think its nerves,” Atleti coach Diego Simeone said. “It’s about playing better, being a good blocker, and finding our strongest version.”
Simeone may have hoped that the international break would provide his squad with an opportunity to reboot and reset after a close 1-0 victory over bottom-club Alaves two weeks ago.
Instead, they suffered another defeat against a tenacious Sevilla side, who improved their grip on the fourth position, even though a drive for the top three seems to be out of reach.
Sevilla deserved to win, and it could have been more comfortable if Lucas Ocampos had not missed a first-half penalty, with Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak coming to the rescue again after Jose Gimenez fouled Ivan Rakitic.
Yet Acuna scored with 20 minutes remaining, heading in a looping Jesus Navas header, even as Atletico objected to an Ocampo’s handball that happened nearly a minute ago.
Mario Hermoso missed a golden opportunity from close range, and Luis Suarez did beautifully to set up Angel Correa late on, but Sevilla’s Bono, who scored against Real Valladolid a fortnight ago, saved the points with a vital save.