Daily Tribune (Philippines)

Barcelona, Atletico strike hard

- MADRID, Spain (AFP)

— Barcelona and Atletico Madrid rejoined La Liga’s top four on Sunday after Barca needed a late penalty to beat Elche 2-1 before Atletico defeated Real Betis 3-1, Joao Felix scoring twice at the Benito Villamarin.

It is the first time Barcelona and Atletico have both been in La Liga’s Champions League qualificat­ion spots since August.

Atletico has struggled for solidity and consistenc­y since winning the title last season while Barca is still recovering from a financial crisis and the departure of Lionel Messi.

Yet both teams will be growing in confidence that they can now achieve their minimum objective, which is to avoid missing out on the Champions League next season and the further financial damage that would cause.

Barca is now third, level on points with Atletico in fourth, but having played a game fewer. They might both fancy their chances of finishing second, with stuttering Sevilla only seven points in front.

We deserved to win by more than one goal.

Atletico’s win over Betis was particular­ly significan­t given Betis started the day in third and looked the mostly likely candidates to upset the establishe­d top four.

Felix, who was again preferred to Luis Suarez, has four goals in his last four games.

“Everyone needs time. We ask everything from Joao and he is doing it,” Diego Simeone said.

Barcelona, meanwhile, had to come from behind at the Martinez Valero after Fidel capitalize­d on a Pedri error, only for Barca

to come storming back thanks to two substitute­s. Ferran Torres diverted in from close range on the hour before Memphis Depay scored an 84th-minute penalty after the striker had drawn Elche’s Antonio Barragan into a handball.

“It seemed we were going to lose a game we did not deserve to lose,” said Barca coach Xavi Hernandez. “We deserved to win by more than one goal.”

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