5 things to know about Spanish league

PAUL LOGOTHETIS AP Sports Writer Published:

MADRID (AP) -- Barcelona's memorable -- and wild -- 4-3 victory at Real Madrid pushed Atletico Madrid right to the top of the Spanish league standings.

While Atletico and Real Madrid both have 70 points, Atletico's better head-to-head record against its neighbor puts it in front with nine matches remaining. Barcelona is just behind with 69 points.

All three teams will have little time to reflect on the weekend with a short turnaround into midweek games, when Madrid will be looking to bounce back from the stinging loss.

Here are five things to know about this week's Spanish league games:

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SOUR GRAPES

Cristiano Ronaldo made no attempt to hide his feelings after the 4-3 loss to Barcelona saw Madrid concede two contentious penalties.

"Madrid is the biggest club in the world and that creates a lot of jealousy in people, and they don't want us to win the league," Ronaldo said. "The referee wasn't adequate for a game like this one. He couldn't make the correct decisions, he was nervous."

The pulsating pace produced a number of incidents in the emotional contest, with Cesc Fabregas and Pepe squaring up to each other and Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets subsequently dragging his boot over Pepe's head as he lay on the ground.

Sergio Ramos, who also complained of referee bias, will miss Wednesday's match at Sevilla after being red-carded against Barcelona.

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MESSI MAGIC

Lionel Messi's 26th career hat trick guided Barcelona to victory over Madrid and moved him into second place in Spanish league goals with 236, trailing only Telmo Zarra's record total of 251.

The Argentina forward became the all-time leader in goals scored in the Barcelona-Madrid rivalry -- 21 -- and became the first player since Ferenc Puskas in 1963 to score an away hat trick against Madrid.

"We're close to the leader, now we just have to keep playing this way right up until the last game," Messi said. "There are few matches left and we can't afford to commit any more errors."

Barcelona will host Celta Vigo on Wednesday.

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MISSION POSSIBLE?

For Atletico Madrid, the mission is simple: Win and the title is yours.

Atletico can clinch its first league trophy since the 1996-97 season by winning its nine remaining matches.

Neutral fans would love to see a new champion for the first time since Valencia's triumph in 2004.

Diego Costa scored his 23rd goal of the season in Sunday's 2-0 win over last-place Real Betis. Atletico will travel to Granada on Wednesday.

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DIFFERENT TACT

Former Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho would have no doubt taken advantage of the team's loss to highlight all the decisions -- especially referee's -- that went against Madrid, which finished with 10 men.

Not current coach Carlo Ancelotti, who tried to defuse the circus surrounding the contentious actions.

"You could say some of the decisions penalized us, but it doesn't change anything," Ancelotti said. "We just have to stay focused now. We need an immediate reaction."

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BARCELONA BOOST

So much for Barcelona being on the decline.

While Madrid's pace and quality of attack did expose the defending champion's fragile defense, Barcelona once again showed when it relies on its hallmark possession game and the finishing touch of Messi it is hard to beat.

Messi has scored consecutive league hat tricks as Barcelona goes into the final stretch of the season with another morale-boosting victory.

"This team always responds when it needs to, but we need to keep going, we can't be happy with just this win," Messi said. "We quickly have to forget about this and look forward."

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