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Atletico’s top-four hopes hit by Mallorca defeat


Madrid (AFP) – Atletico Madrid were dragged back into the fight for a La Liga top-four spot on Saturday after a surprise 1-0 defeat by relegation-battling Mallorca.

The loss leaves Diego Simeone’s side just a point in front of Real Betis in the table after Betis had earlier come from behind to beat Cadiz 2-1 thanks to a late penalty from Borja Iglesias.

And at the other end of the table, Mallorca’s victory gives them a major boost in their bid for survival as they climb out of the relegation zone, one point ahead of Cadiz, who slipped to 18th.

Atletico face Manchester City in the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday, needing to overturn a 1-0 deficit at the Wanda Metropolitano if they are to make the semis.

A trip to the Balearic Islands between the two City games was always going to be awkward but even if a degree of fatigue or distraction played its part, Atletico were well below-par.

The result also raises questions over Simeone’s decision to restore Luis Suarez to the starting line-up, even if Mallorca’s goal actually came shortly after Suarez was replaced by the in-form Joao Felix.

The decisive moment came in the 68th minute, after Atletico’s Reinildo Mandava kicked through the back of Mallorca’s Pablo Maffeo from behind and just inside the area.

Vedat Muriqi tucked away the penalty and Atletico had no answer, managing just one shot on target after they failed to muster any against City in midweek.

With a four-point advantage over Betis at the start of the weekend and on the back of an impressive run of form, Atletico’s position in the top four looked secure.

But this defeat pulls them right back into the race, with tricky games at home to both Real Madrid and Sevilla still to come.

Betis, who will be the favourites in the Copa del Rey final against Valencia later this month, still have to play at home to Barcelona and then finish the season away at Real Madrid.

Cadiz took the lead through Ivan Alejo early in the second half but Cristian Tello fired in a Betis equaliser in the 78th minute before Borja kept his cool from the spot in the 85th.

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