Real Sociedad close on top two in Spain

Led by an ageless David Silva and a striker making the most of a second chance, Real Sociedad are threatening to make it a three-way title fight in the Spanish league.

Sociedad's 2-0 win at Rayo Vallecano in the capital on Saturday pulled them level with second-placed Real Madrid a week before they face one another. Leaders Barcelona are just three points clear.

Both powerhouses have two more games to play, but the San Sebastian team, who haven't won the league since the 1980s, are coming on strong with nine straight wins across the league and the Copa del Rey.

Imanol Alguacil's Sociedad face a big week ahead. They visit Camp Nou on Wednesday to play Barcelona in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals then visit the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday to face Madrid in the league.

Alguacil, however, urged his players not to look at the standings.

"That will only make us let up," he said. "There is a long way to go. Let's see where we are when there are only five or six rounds left."

Silva helped to put Sociedad ahead in the 15th minute when the 37-year-old midfielder recovered the ball and slipped a pass to meet the run of Alexander Sorloth. The Norway striker used one touch to stab the ball under goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski.

Sociedad doubled the lead in the 36th on a set-piece. Aritz Elustondo curled around a scrum of players to shake his marker and redirected a corner kick to the far post where Ander Barrenetxea finished it off.

While Silva is still showing the playmaking skills from his best years at Manchester City and for Spain, Sorloth is enjoying a superb season of his own.

Following a ho-hum 2021-22 campaign on loan at Sociedad, Sorloth was brought back again on loan from Leipzig but was still set to be the second option until top signing Umar Sadiq sustained a serious knee injury in September.

Sorloth has responded by scoring eight times in 14 league games, including an ongoing five-round scoring streak, compared to just three goals in 32 league games last season.

Sociedad won their third Copa del Rey in 2020. Their two Spanish league titles came in 1981 and 1982.

Antoine Griezmann scored once and played a part in two more goals in the opening half hour of Atletico Madrid's 3-0 victory over Valladolid.

Griezmann deftly provided an assist with a flick of his heel to play Alvaro Morata clear for the 18th-minute opener at Metropolitano Stadium.

The France forward scored from close to make it 2-0 in the 24th and his free kick finally went in on a rebound by Mario Hermoso in the 28th.

Memphis Depay debuted for Atletico in the 75th a day after the Netherlands forward transferred from Barcelona to help fill the void left by Joao Felix's move to Chelsea.

Espanyol beat Real Betis 1-0 thanks to Martin Braithwaite's goal just before halftime.