Valencia were beaten 6-3 by Real Madrid on Saturday, but have a six-point cushion over Villarreal for that all-important Champions League automatically qualifying spot. Against Sevilla, the Europa League semi-finalists were two down inside 14 minutes after goals from Ivan Rakitić and Álvaro Negredo.
Carlos Marchena (56) pulled one back for Villarreak before Ndri Romaric struck just after the hour. Giuseppe Rossi halved Villarreal’s deficit again with 17 minutes left but the yellow submariners could not find that third goal.
Atletico Madrid are in sixth place, two points back of Athletic Bilbao after a 4-1 win against Levante. Elias gave Atletico a 19th-minute lead before Felipe Caicedo equalised from the spot six minutes before half-time. But two second half goals from Sergio Agüero, the second a penalty, and a Gustavo Munúa own goal wrapped up the points for Atletico.
Hércules, meanwhile, took a big step towards safety after a 1-0 victory against Deportivo La Coruna. While Hercules are still in the bottom three, they are now only two points from safety.
Another team near the bottom of the table is Málaga who got three valuable points by win 2-1 at Racing Santander. Elsewhere, Mallorca and Sporting Gijón recorded home victories, 2-0 and 1-0 against Getafe and Espanyol respectively.