Barcelona: Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone is in upbeat mood ahead of a potentially thrilling finale to the La Liga season with the top three sides remaining in title contention after a weekend of upsets.
With two games remaining, Atletico have 88 points and are still in the driving seat despite a 0-2 defeat at Levante on Sunday. Real Madrid failed to take full advantage of Atletico’s loss when they needed a brilliant Cristiano Ronaldo volley in added time to rescue a point in a 2-2 home draw with Valencia.
The visitors were ahead when Jeremy Mathieu nodded in a corner a minute before halftime. Sergio Ramos levelled with another header in the 59th before Dani Parejo smashed in a loose ball to restore the visitors' lead six minutes later.
Ronaldo, La Liga’s top scorer with 31 goals, sent a spectacular back-heeled effort rocketing past Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves in the 92nd minute to keep Real’s hopes of reeling in the top two alive.
Barcelona, who also drew 2-2 against Getafe on Saturday, are second – three points behind while Real lie third on 83 points with a game in hand.
“We have always followed the same balanced line. We have always said that we are playing against two very powerful rivals and it is difficult for them to lose their games,” Simeone told a news conference after Sunday’s defeat.
“On this occasion we have been beaten and now we have in front of us three weeks full of emotion, pure football. The league now is a lot more exciting.”
As well as leading the fight for the championship Atletico have also booked a place in the May 24 Champions League final against Real Madrid.
“We have three fantastic weeks, including the game on the 24th. We are anticipating three finals and we need to concentrate on the first of those which is against Malaga next Sunday,” added Simeone.
Should Real win their final games, a win by their arch-rivals Barcelona over Atletico would hand them the title. (Reuters)