- Associated Press - Friday, April 28, 2017

MADRID (AP) - Another Spanish league title race is down to Barcelona or Real Madrid.

The fight for third place is no less intense.

Atletico Madrid and Sevilla, gunning for the final automatic spot for next season’s Champions League, have the same points with four games left. Atletico is ahead on the head-to-head tiebreaker, but its attention is split between the league and the semifinals of the Champions League.

Sevilla appeared to have third place secured not long ago, when it was nine points in front of Atletico. But then it endured a run of five winless games, including a 3-1 loss to Atletico.

Atletico won seven of eight matches to move past Sevilla, and it was carrying a three-point lead in the last few rounds until Tuesday, when it lost to Villarreal 1-0 at home.

Sevilla capitalized by beating Celta Vigo 2-1 at home on Thursday, leaving the teams even again entering the final rounds.

“We knew this was a crucial game in the fight for third place,” Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli said. “We caught up to them again and we are already focused on what we need to do on Monday.”

On Monday, Sevilla plays at Malaga.

Atletico visits Las Palmas on Saturday.

Atletico, the third force in Spanish soccer behind Real Madrid and Barcelona, won’t be able to fully focus on the fight for third because it is also playing in the Champions League. The first leg of the semifinals against city rival Madrid is next week at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Atletico is trying to win the European competition for the first time. It lost the 2014 and 2016 finals to Madrid.

“Our goal won’t change and we will keep defending this third position,” Atletico captain Gabi Fernandez insisted. “We will be fighting until the end in these last four matches. We will remain motivated to achieve this goal.”

Atletico won the Spanish league in 2014 and finished third in 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Sevilla hasn’t finished the league as high as third since 2009.

“We are excited about our chances to finish third,” said Sevilla midfielder Joaquin Correa, who scored both goals on Thursday. “We have a group prepared to do it.”

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tazzoni

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