Madrid: Atletico Madrid ended a run of three defeats and pulled three points clear at the top of La Liga when goals from Raul Garcia and Diego Costa set them on their way to a 3-0 win at home to Real Valladolid on Saturday.
Atletico came into the game at their Calderon stadium after resounding losses in both legs of their King`s Cup semi-final against city rivals Real Madrid, either side of a surprise 2-0 La Liga reverse at promoted Almeria.
Their stumble on the south coast cost them first place in the standings and Barcelona and Real can join them on 60 points from 24 matches if they win their games later on Saturday and on Sunday respectively.
Champions Barca host struggling Rayo Vallecano at the Nou Camp and Real play at another Madrid club, Getafe.
Atletico needed a convincing performance to lift morale before Wednesday`s Champions League last 16, first leg at AC Milan and Garcia gave them the perfect start in the third minute when he picked up Gabi`s clever free kick and netted with a first-time strike from the edge of the area.
A minute later Garcia conjured a fine assist for Costa and the Brazil-born forward lifted the ball over advancing Valladolid goalkeeper Diego Marino for his 21st league goal of the campaign, one behind top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid.
With a two-goal cushion, Atletico played well within themselves for the rest of the match and centre back Diego Godin added a third in the 74th minute when he headed into the net from a Diego corner.
Valladolid, who have won only four games this term, are down in 18th on 21 points and in danger of relegation.