Raul Garcia's first-half goal earned Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win at Valencia on Sunday, edging Diego Simeone's team closer to the La Liga title.
Atleti had Juanfran sent off in the 90th minute but held on to record a vital three points and move six clear of the top of the table. Barcelona will be four points back should they beat Villarreal on Sunday evening in Spain.
Atleti play Barcelona in their last game of the season, while Real Madrid also have a game in hand to factor in. In terms of goal difference, Real and Barca are both some ways ahead of Atletico Madrid.
If Atleti win their next two league matches, against Levante and Malaga, they will be confirmed as champions. Real Madrid could match their haul of 94 points, but the title would then be decided on the head-to-head record between those teams, which Atletico Madrid would win.
David Villa and Diego Costa both started for Atleti at Valencia, with Villa coming close to the first goal after 11 minutes—his shot on the swivel just missing the top corner.
Valencia enjoyed the better part of the early possession, but it was Atleti making the chances—and they had a fine one just after the half-hour when Koke failed to convert Costa's cross.
The league leaders went ahead soon after, when Garcia beat Valencia goalkeeper Vincente Guaita to a cross and headed home.
The second half began with an early chance for Costa, but the prolific marksman fluffed his lines when he went one on one with Guaita and tried to shoot through his legs.
Valencia then had a good chance to level. Jonas' header was on target, but Filipe Luis was in the right place to block it on the line.
|Valencia player ratings|
Costa had another chance with around five minutes left, only to once again be denied by Guaita, with only the keeper to beat.
Atleti held on for victory, with the only sour note the straight red Juanfran collected for a reckless tackle in the dying minutes.
Up next in La Liga, Simeone's team travel to Levante, knowing the title race is in their hands. Between now and then they also have the small matter of a Champions League semi-final second leg against Chelsea to negotiate. How Simeone manages his squad will be key.
Simeone will desperately want to go in Atleti's last game of the season against Barcelona with the title already won.
|Atletico Madrid player ratings|
This was not his team's best performance, but at this stage of the season results are all-important.
Valencia will next face Sevilla at home, before travelling to Real Madrid in another game that could have a big influence on the title race.
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