After Atlético Madrid stumbled in La Liga, Real Madrid didn’t miss its chance to move closer to the top.
Madrid won 1-0 at Valladolid on Saturday for its fourth consecutive win, while Atlético lost points for the second straight match in a 2-0 home loss against Levante that ended its 11-game unbeaten streak in the league.
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The results left second-place Madrid within three points of Atlético, which remains with a game in hand but is starting to feel the heat. Third-place Barcelona can move within six points of Atlético if it beats struggling Cádiz at home on Sunday.
Casemiro scored with a 65th-minute header off a cross by Toni Kroos to give Madrid the win two rounds before it visits Atlético at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Madrid has been able to inch closer to the top despite playing without several key players recently because of injuries, including Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos and Eden Hazard.
None of them could play in Valladolid as Madrid withstood a few threats but was mostly in control against the hosts, which are winless in seven matches in all competitions and sit second-to-last in the 20-team standings.
José Luis Morales scored in the 30th minute and Jorge de Frutos added another goal in stoppage time at the Metropolitano, handing Atlético its first league loss since December — and first at home in more than a year.
Diego Simeone’s team has won only one of its last four league matches.
“I’m not looking for excuses, we need to find solutions,” Simeone said. “It’s natural that we will find difficulties along our path. There will be challenges.”
Atlético had won nine of its last 11 league matches and hadn’t lost since a 1-0 defeat at Real Madrid in December. It had drawn two of its last three games, with setbacks against Levante and Celta Vigo. Atlético was eliminated by third-division club Cornellà in the second round of the Copa del Rey in January.
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Atlético was unbeaten at home in the league in 22 matches, since a 1-0 loss to Barcelona in December 2019. It went 23 matches unbeaten at home between 2013 and 2014, when it last won the league.
Levante, which recently made it to the semifinals of the Copa del Rey for the first time in 86 years, hadn’t won in 14 games at Atlético in the league, with 13 losses and one draw. It had also won at Real Madrid four rounds ago after going winless in its last eight away matches. Levante hadn’t won two away matches in a row in the league since 2018.
It moved to eighth with Saturday’s win, its first in four matches in all competitions.
Atlético has a tough schedule ahead, hosting Chelsea in the round of 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday and playing Villarreal and Real Madrid in its next two Spanish league matches.
Manu Vallejo and Kevin Gameiro scored a goal each in second-half stoppage time as Valencia beat Celta Vigo 2-0 at home.
Elche beat visiting Eibar 1-0 with a first-half goal by Dani Calvo in a match between relegation-threatened teams.
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