Soccer-Atletico host Betis with unbeaten streaks on the line

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - LaLiga - Atletico Madrid v Valencia - Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain - March 18, 2023 Atletico Madrid players during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Isabel Infantes

(Reuters) - Atletico Madrid host Real Betis in LaLiga on Sunday and both teams will be motivated not just by their top-four aspirations but also a desire to preserve their unbeaten runs in the league.

After a difficult start to the season, Diego Simeone's Atletico have hit their stride and prior to the international break, they eased to a 3-0 home victory over Valencia to extend their unbeaten run in LaLiga to 10 games.

Atletico boast the league's second best backline and have let in just four goals in their last 10 matches and their resurgence has been aided by Antoine Griezmann's timely return to form.

The 32-year-old Frenchman was named LaLiga's player of the month for March after scoring two goals and recording an assist in his last three matches - a massive turnaround for the forward, who was forced to play a cameo role earlier this season due to a clause in his contract.

However, Atletico will have their work cut out against a team who have not tasted defeat in their last six league matches.

Although Betis were knocked out of the Europa League in the round of 16 by Manchester United this month, their domestic form has been excellent and they have conceded only one goal in their last three games.

Fifth-placed Betis will be looking to close in on the top four and a potential place in next year's Champions League with victory over Atletico.

Leaders Barcelona travel to Elche on Saturday, where they can briefly open up a 15-point lead over second-placed Real Madrid, who host Real Valladolid on Sunday.

Barcelona's fixture against bottom club Elche serves as a brief interlude in the Catalan club's rivalry with Real, coming between a 2-1 league win over Carlo Ancelotti's side and next week's Copa del Rey semi-final second leg.

Barcelona take a 1-0 lead into the second leg and are poised to inflict further damage on Real's hopes of winning silverware this season, having beaten them in the Spanish Super Cup final in January and all but extinguished their title chances.

Uncertainty still hangs over the league with almost half of the top-flight clubs locked in a battle for survival.

Second-bottom Almeria and 11th-placed Mallorca are separated by only six points, and that gap could shrink even further this weekend.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)

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