With just three matchdays left, it's Atletico Madrid's title to lose in La Liga entering Week 36.
Atletico are atop the table with 88 points, but one loss would put Real Madrid—assuming they win out—back in control as they're six points out with one game in hand. As if these two squads didn't have enough going on with their looming Champions League final in Lisbon, Portugal, on May 24, they're both gunning for the league title in three crucial upcoming weekends.
With all 20 teams taking the pitch from Friday to Monday, everything from avoiding relegation to Champions League spots to the title on the line. Let's break it all down.
|May 2||Rayo Vallecano||0-3||Athletic Bilbao|
|May 3||Osasuna||0-2||Celta Vigo|
|May 3||Real Valladolid||1-0||Espanyol|
|May 4||Almeria||3-2||Real Betis|
|May 4||Levante||2-0||Athletico Madrid|
|May 4||Real Madrid||2-2||Valencia|
|May 5||Real Sociedad||1-1||Granada|
In a rare early-weekend battle between two clubs in the league's top half, Athletic Bilbao showed their pedigree as a top-four squad with an all-important, 3-0 road win over Rayo Vallecano.
The victory sealed up the fourth and final spot in La Liga for Athletic, which means they will advance to the Champions League for the first time since 1997, per ITV Football:
Athletic Bilbao qualify for the Champions League after win over Rayo Vallecano pic.twitter.com/MBt4xVBuGG— ITV Football (@itvfootball) May 2, 2014
Los Leones jumped on top of the home side early with a 20th-minute goal from Mikel San Jose—the 24-year-old's fifth score of the La Liga season. Oscar de Marcos added to the lead just 10 minutes later with a goal in the 30th minute to make it 2-0 Athletic.
The leading club bent but didn't break in the final 45 and added a third for insurance in the 74th minute when Ander Herrera put a free-kick into the bottom right corner of the net.
Rayo regained their composure after those fatal early blunders. They controlled possession to a 59-41 advantage and practically matched them in offensive output. But in the end, they couldn't make anything of their chances and ended scoreless in a wide-margined defeat.
Athletic Bilbao had to fight down the stretch of this season for that fourth and final spot, which guarantees a place in the Champions League qualifying round. With this win, they assured themselves of making it into the exclusive tournament for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Athletic close the season against Real Sociedad and Almeria in the season's final two weeks, but with Friday's victory, those are no longer matches that they must have. They're officially in.
Bilbao also received some good news on Saturday after Barcelona were held to a shocking draw by Getafe. As Dermot Ledwith of ESPN explains, the result all but ends Barca's title hopes:
A double strike by Angel Lafita, the second coming in the last minute, was all it took for the tiny club from the south side of Madrid to get a point It is now almost certain that Barca's La Liga title will be going to one of their rivals from the Spanish capital, who have both risen above the Blaugrana during the past season.
Atletico go to Levante and Real host Valencia on Sunday, as only unlikely defeats to both sides will allow any Barca fan to believe anything else.
Sergio Busquets admitted as much after the final whistle claiming that winning the title is 'practically impossible.'
The result means that the La Liga title race is essentially a two-horse one, with both contenders in action on Sunday.