La Liga Week 23, Weekend Wrap: Athletic Bilbao Slingshot To Fourth, Barcelona And Real Madrid Coast

Gorka Iraizoz of Athletic Club celebrates after Gerard Pique of FC Barcelona scored a own-goal during the La Liga match between Athletic Club and FC Barcelona at San Mames Stadium in Bilbao, Spain. Athletic defeated Malaga on February 18, 2012. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Real Madrid and Barcelona cruised on the weekend, while Athletic Bilbao played themselves into fourth and the Levante miracle appeared to finally meet its end.

Athletic Bilbao entered the week in ninth place. In an example of just how tight the race is for European places in Spain, they currently sit in fourth. Levante, Espanyol, Atletico Madrid, Osasuna and their opponents, Malaga, all dropped points over the weekend as Les Leones leapfrogged them, and they now occupy the final Champions League spot.

Elsewhere, the big two did everything that was expected of them and more. Real Madrid never broke a sweat in their 4-0 victory over Racing Santander, while Barcelona obliterated Sevilla 5-1.

Athletic Bilbao 3-0 Malaga

If nothing else, at least Malaga are consistent. They're 7-2-2 at home, and after this loss, they're 2-2-8 on the road. Athletic didn't get off to a terrific start and it appeared that they could be suffering from a European hangover to begin the match. They finally got on the board in the 58th minute through Fernando Amorebieta, who finished off a corner kick after a scramble and a couple of blocks. That was the beginning of an incredible blitz from Bilbao that included a goal from Mikel San Jose in the 60th minute and one from Gaizka Toquiero in the 61st. Toquera's came 18 seconds after the kickoff that followed the San Jose goal.

Levante 3-5 Rayo Vallecano

For the first time this season, Levante are not in the top four in La Liga. Meanwhile, Rayo Vallecano have jumped all the way to eighth place and are just two points out of fourth. Levante's defense has been spectacular all season, especially at home, but they were torched in every imaginable way on Sunday. Lass's opener was created when he beat the offside trap, Diego Costa's first was a header on a set piece and his second was a near post finish on a low cross. Lass's second was a header to the far post from open play and Delibasic's goal came on a through ball that split the defense. Every way that they could be beaten, Levante's defense was beaten.

Levante scored three, but two of the goals were penalties and the one open play goal came at 4-1. This was a thorough beating by Rayo, even if the score doesn't reflect how much better they were than Levante.

All scores

Getafe 1-1 Espanyol
Real Madrid 4-0 Racing Santander
Sevilla 2-0 Osasuna
Granada 4-1 Real Sociedad
Athletic Bilbao 3-0 Malaga
Mallorca 4-0 Villarreal
Sporting Gijon 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Levante 3-5 Rayo Vallecano
Barcelona 5-1 Valencia

Previous reports

Barcelona 5-1 Sevilla
Real Madrid 4-0 Racing Santander
Getafe 1-1 Espanyol

Still to come

Real Zaragoza vs. Real Betis - Monday, 3:00 p.m. ET, 9:00 p.m. local

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