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Barca close in on title as Atletico slip


(l-r) Suarez and Messi. Photo: Reuters

(l-r) Suarez and Messi. Photo: Reuters


(l-r) Suarez and Messi. Photo: Reuters

Barcelona closed in on the La Liga title by thrashing local rivals Espanyol 5-0 yesterday as Atletico Madrid dropped out of the race after losing 2-1 at Levante and Real Madrid beat Valencia 3-2.

Barca top the standings on 88 points, Real moved into second on 87 and Atletico have 85 with one game remaining.

Barca went ahead in the eighth minute when Lionel Messi curled a free-kick into the top corner with a magnificent finish.

Luis Suarez stretched the hosts' lead with two goals in the second half before Rafinha and Neymar completed the rout.

"It was a very complete performance and the result and how we got it strengthens us," Barca coach Luis Enrique said.

"Now we just need to finish the job in Granada and win a league title which I believe we fully deserve."

The coach also rejected suggestions his side's task would be made easier now Granada are no longer fighting to avoid the drop, pointing to Levante's shock win over Champions League finalists Atletico.

"Look at Levante-Atletico, a relegated team beating one of the best teams in Europe," he added. "We're not complacent at all and we're going to try and achieve our objective via playing good football. We'll have to do that to win a league which everyone has seen is very competitive."

Atletico took the lead at Levante in the first minute through Fernando Torres, but the relegated home side fought back, equalising through Victor Casadesus before Giuseppe Rossi grabbed the winner in stoppage time.

Real went ahead thanks to a thunderous low finish from Cristiano Ronaldo in the 26th minute.

Karim Benzema scored the second before the break but Rodrigo Moreno, who was later sent off, pulled one back for Valencia after halftime.

Ronaldo added his second a few minutes later before Andre Gomes scored a sumptuous consolation goal for Valencia.