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Atletico Madrid and Barcelona keep pace in La Liga

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Atletico Madrid beat Real Valladolid 3-0 this morning (http://bit.ly/1hlKGJt) while Barcelona beat Rayo Vallecano 6-0 to remain tied atop the La Liga table, with the Catalans ahead on a substantial goal differential. Real Madrid plays Getafe tomorrow and if the Merengues win the three-way tie in Spanish Football's domestic league will continue another week.

Raul Garcia at the 3rd minute, Diego Costa at the 4th and Diego Godin at the 74th sealed the home win for Atletico who needed the victory after a demoralizing start to the month with their loss of the La Liga leadership after one week atop and their exit from the Copa del Rey courtesy of city rivals Real Madrid.

With their upcoming visit to the San Siro to face AC Milan in the Champions League this was an important psychological victory for Los Colchoneros. Milan has not been playing its best football of late and only an 83rd minute, spectacular long-range missile (http://bit.ly/1f55bXI) from Mario Balotelli against Bologna yesterday kept the Rossoneri in 10th place in Seria A.

Atletico came out looking for blood from the get go and never looked back after the first five minutes of the game. Coach Diego Simeone, in the post game press conference said: "...we are staying focused and playing with intensity. My players executed well. It was great. The second goal was all about [Raul] Garcia's vision as a playmaker and Diego's [Costa] finishing touch."

The goals also came fast and furious for Barcelona today at the Camp Nou. Adriano at the 1st, and Lionel Messi at the 35th, gave the Catalans the first half lead, before the second half deluge. Alexis Sanchez at the 52nd, Pedro at the 55th, Messi again at the 67th, and Neymar a the 83rd, sealed the score line. It was a day for Barca to be clicking on all cylinders while Rayo simply could not get out of first gear.

The golazo of the evening was scored by substitute Neymar coming into the latter part of the second half after 28 days of recuperation from his ankle injury (http://bit.ly/1f1wLGT).

Barcelona is preparing for its Champions League game next week at Manchester City and this was the tonic for the Catalans--Messi scoring goals, Neymar back in shape, Carles Puyol seemingly back in shape, and an offense that was simply mesmerizing. Manchester City, meanwhile, is sitting pretty--coming off a 2-0 victory over Arsenal in the FA Cup today (http://bit.ly/1f5HoGY). City are three points behind Chelsea and two behind Arsenal with a game in hand in the Premier League.

Next week's Champions League games, for Atletico and Barcelona, and later Real (against Schalke, February 26), seem to be coming as the three Spanish clubs are in the ascendancy.

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