Europa sides earn boost before semis

Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao all collected wins in La Liga on Sunday, providing crucial boosts ahead of their UEFA Europa League semi-final second legs on Thursday.

Third-placed Valencia beat nine-man Real Betis 4-0 at home with goals from Jonas, Sofiane Feghouli, Roberto Soldado and Pablo Piatti to stay on track for a UEFA Champions League place next season.

Betis had Jose Dorado sent off in the second half for pulling over Feghouli as the last defender, while Jorge Molina followed him into the dressing room with two minutes remaining for protesting.

Valencia are now six points ahead of city rivals Levante in fifth place and with only four games left are close to assuring Champions League qualification for next season. The result also means Valencia will go into the second leg of their Europa League semi-final at home to Atletico in good spirits as they look to turn around a 4-2 deficit.

Turan inspires Atletico
Turkish international Arda Turan hit two spectacular strikes to improve Atletico's hopes of European football next season as they beat rivals Espanyol 3-1. Diego Godin put Atletico ahead on nine minutes with a powerful header before Didac Vila crashed home an equaliser to make it all square at the interval.

Turan's match-winning performance began with an acrobatic finish to a Juanfran cross on 59 minutes to restore the home team's lead. Two minutes later, he took down a long pass from Godin before twisting and turning through the Espanyol defence and hitting a shot that sneaked past Cristain Alvarez in the Espanyol goal.

The win puts Atletico into seventh position, three points behind Malaga, who currently hold a Champions League place, and level on points with Athletic in sixth, who beat Racing Santander 1-0.

Gaizka Toquero got the first-half goal for Athletic that almost certainly condemns Racing to relegation. Athletic, who trail Sporting CP 2-1 ahead of their Europa League semi-final second leg in Spain on Thursday, are currently in a position that qualifies them for that competition again next season.

Racing are rock-bottom of La Liga, and with only four games left they are 11 points from safety and very close to losing their place in Spain's top flight that they have held since the 2000/01 season.

Sociedad, Villarreal near safety
Real Sociedad and Villarreal shared the points in a 1-1 draw that almost guarantees saftey for both clubs. Marcos Senna put Villarreal ahead in the first half but Carlos Vela snatched an important equaliser with a spectacular overhead free-kick six minutes from time.

Sociedad are now on 40 points, nine ahead of Real Zaragoza and Sporting Gijon in the relegation zone. Villarreal move to 37 points, only six points from safety but with four games remaining their destiny is firmly in their own hands.

Granada snatched an important 1-0 victory over Getafe with a goal from the Argentinian Franco Jara that also pushes them closer to safety. The Andalusian team, in their first season back in the top division since 1976, are eight points clear of the relegation zone on 39 points.