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Atletico Madrid, not Barcelona or Real Madrid, leads La Liga

updated 5:48 PM EST, Sat December 21, 2013
Former Argentina midfielder Diego Simeone has done a fine job at the helm of Atletico Madrid.
Former Argentina midfielder Diego Simeone has done a fine job at the helm of Atletico Madrid.
  • Atletico Madrid rallies to beat Levante 3-2 to move into top spot in Spain's La Liga
  • Diego Costa pulls two goals clear of Cristiano Ronaldo in the league scoring charts
  • Atletico leads Barcelona by three points and Real Madrid by eight
  • But Barcelona can reclaim first place Sunday when it travels to Getafe

(CNN) -- It's rare for Barcelona or Real Madrid not to be leading Spain's La Liga at the Christmas break.

But Atletico Madrid could break the trend this season.

Atletico replaced Barcelona atop the division after a comeback 3-2 win against Levante on Saturday in Madrid. Diego Costa once again provided the firepower, scoring two goals -- including the late winner from the penalty spot.

Atletico pulled ahead of Barcelona by three points and is guaranteed of staying top heading into January if the defending champion doesn't win at Getafe on Sunday.

"We have a lot of heart and (work hard)," Atletico manager Diego Simeone told reporters. "If we go day by day, we will be able to fight."

Simeone's side is already assured of finishing above city rival Real Madrid come the end of 2013 given it has an eight-point advantage.

Just as it did last week in the league against Valencia, the home team started slowly and Levante -- which entered the game with two straight victories after losing five in a row -- took full advantage.

Andreas Ivanschitz pounced in the first minute as Atletico conceded for the first time in four games in the league. Mid-table Levante almost made it two but Thibaut Courtois denied David Barral.

Atletico was rattled and Tiago was fortunate not to receive a card -- maybe red -- when he barged into Juanfran.

Diego Godin's header in the 30th minute made it 1-1 and when Costa volleyed home his league leading 18th goal in the 47th minute with his left foot, it appeared as if Atletico would coast.

Pedro Rios, however, leveled when he raced through on goal and finished sublimely in the 57th minute.

Costa had the last word, converting a penalty in the 77th minute. Costa saw his penalty saved against Valencia and Keylor Navas got a hand to Saturday's effort, though not enough to keep it out of the net.

"A striker always needs goals, but what really matters is that these goals help to score points," Costa told reporters.

Juanfran received a red card in the 90th minute when he clashed with Filipe Luis.

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