La Liga, Round 21 review: Athletic Bilbao tighten grip on fourth, no changes at the top

David Ramos

Athletic Bilbao expanded their lead over Villarreal in the race for fourth place while all three of the league leaders won.

At the close of round 21 in La Liga things look much the same as they did before the first match on Friday. Barcelona remains in first place, ahead of Atlético Madrid on goal differential while Real Madrid lurk just a single point back in third place.

For a time though, just under 24 hours to be more precise, Madrid were in first thanks to the fact they played a day earlier than Barca and Atléti. While provisional leads like that don't matter in terms of final standings, their effect have a potential psychological effect and help to build pressure on the teams that know they must win their match or face dropping in the table.

This week, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid answered the challenge laid down by Madrid, both bouncing back from draws last round with solid victories in their matches. Barcelona overcame a slow start against Málaga to earn a 3-0 victory while Atléti broke out of their offensive funk in a 4-2 win over Rayo Vallecano. It was the first time in league play that Atléti had scored more than one goal in a match since December 21st.

Diego Costa didn't technically score his first goal of 2014 but he came extremely close, helping to create Atléti's fourth goal after his shot was deflected off Saúl Ñíguez's toe and was ruled and own goal.

Athletic Bilbao expanded their lead over Villarreal for fourth place after thumping Osasuna 5-1 while the Yellow Submarine were shut out by Real Valladolid 1-0. Real Sociedad stay pulled within a point of Villarreal and kept in touch of Athletic Club with their 4-0 win over Elche on Monday.

Real Betis suffered yet another defeat and slipped ten points back of the final safe spot, taking another step towards what seems to be their inevitable relegation.

Here's all the results from round 21.

Celta Vigo 4-2 Real Betis
Real Madrid 2-0 Granada
Real Valladolid 1-0 Villarreal
Valencia 2-2 Espanyol
Sevilla 2-3 Levante
Almeria 1-0 Getafe
Osasuna 1-5 Athletic Bilbao
Rayo Vallecano 2-4 Atlético Madrid
Barcelona 3-0 Málaga
Real Sociedad 4-0 Elche

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