Atletico Madrid have given a clear sign that being eliminated from the Champions League has not directly ruled them out of the La Liga title race, as they edged past Real Betis with a tight 1-0 win on Sunday afternoon.
Despite a challenging match, which was largely dominated by Betis, Diego Simeone's men earned their three points in the first half, when Sime Vrsaljko delivered a fine cross for Saul Niguez, who easily sent the ball past the goalkeeper for the visitor's lead.
Atletico have not lost in the league since the beginning of the season, whilst the same cannot be said of the hosts, who, despite beating Real Madrid earlier this year, have not won in seven games.
Yet things started harder than expected for the visitors, with Betis' pressing in the opening minutes of the game and were pegged inside their own half.
The hosts had almost 75% of ball possession after 20 minutes and Atleti looked slow, disinterested and unprepared as they struggled to defend themselves against the Andalusians.
Tello could have broken the deadlock for Real Betis as early as five minutes into the game, as he picked up the ball around the midfield area and went on a mazy run into Atleti box. However, the Spaniard did everything right apart from executing his shot, which was too weak and central to pose any threat.
Betis had another significant chance when they were awarded a free-kick from the left-hand side of the pitch: Joaquin delivered a precise cross in the middle of the box, but neither Leon nor Barragan managed to give it the final touch.
But the strength of Atletico lays on their incredible resilience and Betis should have known better. Despite struggling for over 30 minutes, Los Colchoneros unexpectedly took the lead with Saul.
Vrsaljko ran from the left and approached the box, took a second to look and then delivered a fine assist that found the Spaniard, who slid on the ground as he sent the ball inside the goal.
The guests look rejuvenated after the goal, while Betis clearly lost their momentum and started struggling. As the end approached, the Andalusians had fewer attempts to overturn the result, the most notable one with Leon, who kicked a left-footed strike from the edge of the box, however, goalkeeper Oblak had no trouble saving.
The tension was extremely high as the second half got underway: the crowd in Sevilla was impatient and both sides were too afraid to concede a goal, which resulted in growing irritability and several fouls.
Betis returned to their dangerous selves ten minutes inside the second half of the game with Leon wasting the most interesting opportunity of the game as he approached Oblak and aimed for the goal from a tight angle. His shot was too imprecise.
Oblak made an outstanding save only a few minutes later: the hosts were certain to have made it all square when Correa curled a magnificent kick towards the top-right corner of the goal, but the keeper stretched to pull it away.
Antoine Griezmann was the big absentee of the game after picking up an injury last week and Simeone opted to feature his French teammate Gameiro alongside Argentinian Correa. However, the two failed to impress, and so did their replacements Fernando Torres and José Gimenez.
The same does not apply to the Atleti defence who did an admirable job towards the end of the match as they represented a red and white wall when Betis attacked.