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Atlético suddenly have Madrid and Barça on their back


Real Madrid have closed the gap on Atlético to just three points. That was unimaginable just a short while ago, but all of a sudden it looks like Atlético have taken their foot off the pedal. In the space of four days they have dropped five points in two meetings with Levante, during a strange week in which the two clubs played both of their fixtures. Atlético found themselves up against a Levante side who are on the up after a poor start to the season, and that has coincided with a sudden dip in form at the back for Simeone's team. All of a sudden they are unable to keep a clean sheet - in their last seven games, Atlético have conceded at least one goal.

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Real Madrid grinding out results

At the other end of the pitch they press and there is an enthusiasm to their game but a Luis Suárez goal doesn’t always arrive – sometimes one of his shots strikes the post or is saved. And that is how Atlético have watched their lead whittled away while Real Madrid, by toiling hard, have ground out results from their games. Yesterday in Valladolid, they were without Benzema and they clearly missed him. His movement between lines and in front of goal are key in initiating Madrid’s attack – something which Mariano cannot emulate; he had the ball in the back of the net with two great finishes – both were flagged offside... Out wide, Asensio and Vinicius didn’t do nearly enough. The team looked a little disheartened, which was odd considering the importance the game had taken on following Atleti’s result.

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Octavio PassosGetty Images

Casemiro and Courtois, key

Madrid only managed to win the game thanks to a great header by Casemiro who got on the end of a precision ball in from Toni Kroos. The Brazilian moves well in the box. Prior to his goal he had already had a couple of chances which only marginally missed the target. After Madrid had gone in front, Zidane swiftly took the front three off, which almost felt like he was scolding them. They did very little during their time on the pitch. After that, Madrid rode out the remaining minutes against a deflated Valladolid, who had enjoyed chances, especially early on, but had come against an inspired Courtois. In short, thanks to Levante the title race is back on. Barça are at home to Cádiz later today and if they win they will be back in the chase. The lead Atleti had this time last week has been sliced in half by Levante.