On Sunday, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid re-entered La Liga’s top four as Barca overcame Elche 2-1 with a late penalty and Atletico upset Real Betis 3-1 at the Benito Villamarin, with Joao Felix scoring twice.
It’s the first time Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have both qualified for the Champions League since August.
Since winning the title last season, Atletico has struggled for consistency and solidity, while Barcelona is still recovering from a financial crisis and Lionel Messi’s departure.
Both teams, on the other hand, will be growing in confidence that they can now achieve their minimal goal, which is to avoid missing out on the Champions League next season and the resulting financial harm.
Barca is now in third place, with the same number of points as Atletico Madrid, but having played one fewer game. With faltering Sevilla only seven points ahead, they may both fancy their chances of finishing second.
Atletico’s victory over Betis was especially significant because Betis had begun the day in third place and appeared to be the most likely challenger to the established top four.
Felix has four goals in his last four games after being chosen ahead of Luis Suarez once again.
“Everyone necessitates the passage of time. “We ask Joao to do everything, and he does it,” Diego Simeone stated.
Meanwhile, Barcelona had to fight back from a goal down at the Martinez Valero when Fidel took advantage of a Pedri error, only for Barca to come back with two substitutions.
On the hour, Ferran Torres diverted in from close range before Memphis Depay converted a penalty in the 84th minute after drawing Elche’s Antonio Barragan into a handball.
“It looked like we were going to lose a game we didn’t deserve to lose,” Xavi Hernandez, Barca’s coach, stated. “We deserved a two-goal victory.”
Xavi’s team hasn’t lost in the league since December and came into this game having scored four goals in three straight games for the first time since 2017.
Barcelona was in eighth place when Xavi was appointed in November.
“We’ve won four games in a row for the first time in a long time,” Xavi stated. “The guys are enthusiastic about what we’re doing. “We’re heading in the right direction,” says the narrator.
In the first half, Barcelona had the better of the chances, with the finest of them falling to Frenkie de Jong, who sprinted in behind Edgar Badia but couldn’t beat him.
Then Ousmane Dembele ran clear, and De Jong’s follow-up was pushed off the line by Diego Gonzalez.
Elche then delivered a sucker punch a minute before half-time when Barca failed to deal with a simple goal-kick downfield, and Pedri pushed the ball back, past his defense, and through to Fidel amid the pandemonium. Fidel took a few steps forward and blasted a shot towards the distant corner.
On the hour, Barcelona equalized as Dembele drove to the line and put up across. Jordi Alba was unable to make a clean catch, but Torres was in the ideal position to direct the ball in.
Elche was tiring, and Barca was desperate for a goal. In the 82nd minute, Depay wriggled around Barragan, the ball popped up, and Barragan instinctively lifted his arm to meet it. The penalty was swept into the top corner by Depay.
After 75 seconds in Seville, Atletico seized the lead when Jan Oblak’s punt downfield was turned onto Angel Correa, who took advantage of some sluggish Betis defending to cross to Felix, who had an easy finish.
After Hector Herrera was stripped of the ball under pressure from Youssouf Sabaly in the fifth minute of injury time towards the end of the first half, Cristian Tello skillfully guided the loose ball into the corner.
On the hour, Marcos Llorente raced in behind and picked out the Portuguese with a cut-back, before Thomas Lemar scored a third with ten minutes remaining, sidefooting in after an electrifying Antoine Griezmann burst down the right