Sevilla became surprise Liga leaders after beating visiting Celta Viga 2-1 on Sunday while champions Barcelona drew 1-1 at Valencia thanks to another Lionel Messi strike but are still without a victory in their last four league games.
Atletico Madrid joined Barca on 15 points after scraping a 1-0 win at home to Real Betis with a late strike from substitute Angel Correa to climb above Real Madrid into third in a highly competitive campaign with the top six separated by two points, reports Reuters.
The Catalans fell behind in the second minute at a bouncing Mestalla stadium after dreadful defending from a corner allowed Argentine defender Ezequiel Garay to stab home from close range.
Barca continued to leak chances but got a foothold in the game thanks to a superb strike in the 23rd minute from Messi, who has been in inspired form recently and delivered a performance for the ages against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.
They failed to further breach a superbly organised Valencia, however, racking up a run of three draws and a defeat in four league games, their longest stretch without a win since 2016.
“This season it feels like we have to come back in every game and we are swimming against the current but we know that this is going to change,” said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde.
“You always want to win and when you don’t you leave with the sensation that you have dropped two points but you have to recognise that Valencia did a very good job defensively.”
Sevilla are top on 16 points while Barca have 15 with Atletico Madrid but are second due to a better goal difference. Real Madrid, beaten 1-0 at Alaves on Saturday, are fourth in the standings, locked on 14 points with Espanyol and Alaves.
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