sport

Simeone rallies Atleti troops

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone is looking forward to a "three fantastic weeks" after his side's bid to be crowned Primera Division champions for the first time since 1996 suffered a major blow.

Following Barcelona's surprise home draw with Getafe on Saturday, leaders Atletico knew if they won their next two games against Levante and Malaga they would clinch the title ahead of their last-day meeting with the defending champions.

However the league leaders slipped up and recorded a result that gives fresh hope to title rivals Barca and Real Madrid, who were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Valencia.

But Simeone was looking forward to the fact the title race could go to the wire, and he said: "This is the best thing that can happen to us because it makes us live with intensity and excitement through these three weeks of our sporting careers with Atletico Madrid.

"It's the ideal moment where the men and the players will show themselves. It's the time to live through three fantastic weeks."

An early own goal from Filipe Luis saw Atletico fall behind at the Ciutat de Valencia and then David Barral added a decisive second for Levante midway through the second half.

Simeone praised Levante for their efforts, adding: "They found the goal quickly and defended well. The goalkeeper did a great performance and we tried in different ways but couldn't tie the match and be more comfortable.

"The goal arrived in a strange play and the team tried with several chances to score, but their goalkeeper played a great game. It was sought and you have to value the defending team. Levante played very well."