MADRID (AP) — Atletico Madrid's title chase is over, leaving only Barcelona and Real Madrid in the hunt with one match to go.
After fighting to stay in contention for its second title in three years, Atletico saw its chances evaporate with a loss on Sunday at last-place Levante, a team that had been relegated in the previous round.
The result dropped Atletico to third place in the standings for the first time since November, leaving it mathematically unable to clinch the title.
"We came one round short of battling with Barcelona and Real Madrid for the title," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. "We were closer than in other years, it makes me happy. Obviously we fell just a little bit short, but what we achieved was great, we were competing with the two best teams until near the end."
Atletico, which still has the Champions League final to play against Real Madrid, had been tied on points with Barcelona. A draw against Levante, which had won only seven games, would have kept the team in contention entering the final week, but the 90th-minute goal it conceded in Valencia–scored by Italian-American Giuseppe Rossi–ended its title hopes.
Atletico is only three points behind Barcelona, but it can't overcome the Catalan club because it trails on the head-to-head tiebreaker.
"It's a pity because of all the work that we have done all year," Atletico midfielder Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion said. "One game ruined everything."
With Atletico out, the title again will stay between Barcelona and Real Madrid, the Spanish powerhouses which have won the league 10 of the last 11 seasons.
Barcelona was comfortably ahead for most of the season until enduring a four-game winless streak that made its nine-point lead disappear. But the team defeated Espanyol 5-0 on Sunday for its fourth straight victory, maintaining a one-point lead over Real Madrid heading into the final weekend.
"It's a tough league," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. "Maybe the last part didn't go the way we wanted, but if we have to win the title in the last game, well then we'll do it in the last game."
Barcelona's final match will be at Granada, which on Sunday secured its presence in the top division next season. A win will be enough to secure the Catalan club its second consecutive league title, and sixth in the last eight seasons.
"Away games are always hard because there are things you can't control," Luis Enrique said. "We're going to go to Granada to reach our objective. We are one step closer. This league has been very competitive. With all the weeks in which we have been in front, I think we deserve to win."
Real Madrid, which has won the league only once in the last seven seasons, was 12 points behind with nine matches to go. The team had been trailing Atletico and Barcelona in the standings since November.
"I've never been in such a tight finish as a player," Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said after Madrid defeated Valencia 3-2 for its 11th consecutive league win. "We did what we had to do, which was to move into second place. Now we will do our best to win our final match, regardless of what happens in Granada."