Atletico Madrid secured qualification for the Champions League on Wednesday as a 2-0 victory away at Elche guaranteed their place in La Liga’s top four.
Matheus Cunha and Rodrigo De Paul were both on target as Atletico pulled six points clear of Real Betis in fifth, with two games left to play. Atletico also have the superior head-to-head record over Betis.
Sevilla, though, failed to make sure of their top-four spot as the team’s poor end to the season had earlier continued with a goalless draw at home to struggling Mallorca.
Atletico look likely now to finish third and although the defence of their league title has been hugely disappointing – they are 14 points behind Real Madrid – Diego Simeone’s side have at least avoided missing out on the Champions League, which for a while seemed a very real possibility.
In December, Atletico lost four league games in a row for the first time ever under Simeone, before defeat by Levante, who sat bottom of the table, prompted crisis talks between coach and players in February.
But five consecutive victories in March proved crucial and while there has been another dip in recent weeks, Atletico have done just enough to seal Champions League qualification for a 10th consecutive year.
Cunha gave Atleti the lead in the 28th minute as Antoine Griezmann picked out Renan Lodi’s run down the left and Cunha was in the right place to divert in the cross to the near post.
The visitors made it two shortly after the hour, De Paul finishing off a superb move after a slick exchange with Lodi, who had again broken through the Elche defence.
Atletico play at home on Sunday to Sevilla, whose stalemate against Mallorca at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan should only delay their qualification given they sit five points clear of Betis, with two games left to play.