Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are within a point of Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top of La Liga after results on Sunday. Atleti produced a hard-fought 3-1 win at home to struggling Espanyol, while Sevilla earned bragging rights in the Seville derby by beating Real Betis 2-1 later in the day.
Earlier, Athletic Bilbao joined the top six thanks to a narrow victory over Levante on home soil, with Iker Muniain among the goalscorers. Meanwhile, Getafe and Osasuna played out the day's only goalless game at the Estadio Coliseum Alfonso Perez.
The day began with Mallorca increasing the gap between themselves and the bottom three by seeing off Villarreal, thanks in large part to excellent performances from Real Madrid loanee Takefusa Kubo and Aleix Febas.
- Mallorca 3-1 Villarreal
- Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Levante
- Atletico Madrid 3-1 Espanyol
- Getafe 0-0 Osasuna
- Real Betis 1-2 Sevilla
Standings (Played, Won, Goals Difference and Points)
1. Barcelona: 12, 8, +18, 25
2. Real Madrid: 12, 7, +16, 25
3. Atletico Madrid: 13, 6, +7, 24
4. Sevilla: 13, 7, +3, 24
5. Real Sociedad: 13, 7, +7, 23
6. Athletic Bilbao: 13, 5, +5, 20
7. Getafe: 13, 5, +3, 20
8. Granada: 13, 6, +2, 20
9. Valencia: 13, 5, +1, 20
10. Osasuna: 13, 4, +3, 19
11. Villarreal: 13, 5, +7, 18
12. Levante: 13, 5, 0, 17
13. Real Valladolid: 13, 4, -3, 17
14. Alaves: 13, 4, -4, 15
15. Eibar: 13, 4, -7, 15
16. Mallorca: 13, 4, -7, 14
17. Real Betis: 13, 3, -8, 13
18. Celta Vigo: 13, 2, -12, 9
19. Espanyol: 13, 2, -16, 8
20. Leganes: 13, 1, -15, 6
Sevilla play the transfer market better than most clubs in Europe, and the skilful retooling of their attack this summer bore fruit when Lucas Ocampos and Luuk de Jong scored the goals to beat Betis.
Ocampos struck first for the away side at the Estadio Benito Villamarin before Loren Moron equalised with the half-time break approaching. Sevilla were back in front 10 minutes after the restart when Ever Banega's inch-perfect pass released De Jong, and the Dutchman finished coolly.
Banega's contribution confirmed his status as the league's creative talisman during the initial phase of this season:
Sevilla's status as legitimate rivals to Barca and Real looks increasing assured thanks to the way the squad has responded to Julen Lopetegui's tactics.
Atleti are also firmly in the title mix but looked capable of slipping to an upset when Sergi Darder gave Espanyol a 38th-minute lead. However, the blushes were spared when Angel Correa answered back in first-half stoppage time.
Correa's goal eased any nerves in Atletico's ranks, and Alvaro Morata profited when he gave Diego Simeone's men their first lead of the day 13 minutes after the restart.
Morata has his detractors, but the Spaniard is steadily proving to be Atleti's most consistent option up top:
His task is also made easier by Atletico's quality in midfield. Koke is the pick of the group, and the capable technician made the points safe in stoppage time.
Athletic struggled through most of a turgid first half at San Mames and were duly punished when Sergio Postiga's injury-time header gave Levante a surprise lead. The hosts' second-half revival was led by the pace of Inaki Williams and the perceptive movement of Muniain.
It was the latter who proved decisive when he got his head to a cross from Ander Capa three minutes before the hour mark. Not content simply with providing an assist, Capa was the hero in the 88th minute when his shot from the edge of the area found the bottom corner to keep Athletic unbeaten in the last three league games.
Earlier, Kubo's pace and movement soon made an impact in Mallorca when the Japan international drew a foul from Vicente Iborra in the box. Lago Junior converted the penalty to put the hosts into a commanding position after 13 minutes and also maintain his own prolific run on home soil:
Ten minutes later, the score was 2-0 when Dani Rodriguez tucked away another spot-kick. Febas had caused the problems this time, drawing Ruben Pena into a reckless challenge.
Villarreal looked down and out, but the Yellow Submarine resurfaced when Gerard Moreno won the game's third penalty. The intelligent striker was brought down by Antonio Raillo, leaving former Arsenal schemer Santi Cazorla to score from 12 yards.
Any hopes of a Villarreal comeback lasted just four minutes, though, with the 18-year-old Kubo dashing them after finishing astutely from a Febas pass. The goal continued Mallorca's history of success relying on Japanese players:
Mallorca are now looking down on Celta Vigo and Espanyol in the battle to beat the drop. Meanwhile, Atleti and Sevilla have done enough to prove they deserve to be taken seriously as title contenders.