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Atletico Madrid comfortably beat third-placed Sevilla to move within two points of Jorge Sampaoli’s side.
It capped a miserable week for Sevilla after being knocked out of the Champions League by Leicester, who will face Atletico in the quarter-finals.
Diego Godin put Atletico ahead, before Antoine Griezmann scored a rocket of a free-kick and Koke added a third.
Fernando Torres made his return from a head injury, as Joaquin Correa scored a late consolation goal.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico are fourth in La Liga, the final Champions League qualification spot, but are now targeting automatic entry to the group stages by finishing in the top three.
They reached the quarter-finals of this season’s competition in midweek with a 0-0 draw against Bayer Leverkusen, going through 4-2 on aggregate.
But they rediscovered their scoring touch against Sevilla, who have now failed to win their past three La Liga games.
Captain Godin was left unmarked to head in Griezmann’s free-kick on 37 minutes, and the France forward then scored his fifth goal in five games in the 60th minute.
Gabriel Mercado fouled Kevin Gameiro to concede a free-kick 25 yards from goal and Griezmann hammered his shot over the wall and in off the underside of the crossbar.
Torres, who was hospitalised after injuring his head during Atletico’s draw with Deportivo La Coruna on 2 March, returned to loud cheers as he replaced Gameiro in the 63rd minute.
Sevilla had been title contenders this season, but have dropped off the pace in recent weeks and are on their longest run without a victory since Sampaoli replaced Unai Emery last summer.
“We’ve got to try and get our mojo back,” said Sampaoli.
Atletico lost right-back Sime Vrsaljiko in the second minute to an injury and the club later revealed the Croatia international has suffered damage to his anterior cruciate ligament and will undergo further tests.