Four days after affirming its European credentials by toppling Manchester City, Barcelona slumped to a stinging 3-1 loss at Real Sociedad to relinquish the provisional Spanish league lead to Real Madrid on Saturday.
Gareth Bale scored a blistering long-range strike to help Madrid brush aside Elche 3-0 at home, and Barcelona was unable to match that with a win. Instead, it was overrun by Sociedad’s dynamic attack led by forwards Antoine Griezmann and Carlos Vela.
Athletic Bilbao strengthened its hold on fourth place in the Spanish league by winning 2-0 at Real Betis on Sunday after the bottom side had two players dismissed while Sevilla ended a six-match winless streak with a 1-0 win at Rayo Vallecano.
Barcelona’s defeat confirmed the change in course in the league title race over the past two months, leaving Madrid in command and waiting to see if Atletico can keep up when it visits Osasuna on Sunday. After starting the season with 13 wins and a draw, Barcelona has dropped points in four of its last seven games. Bilbao’s first victory in four rounds lifted it four points clear of Real Sociedad.