Atletico Madrid recorded a straightforward 2-0 win at Cordoba on Saturday to stay in the fight at the top of the Liga table.
Antoine Griezmann inspired Atletico Madrid to a routine 2-0 win at rock-bottom Cordoba on Saturday, keeping the champion in the Liga title race.
Atletico's top scorer got his team off to a fine start with a well-taken finish after five minutes and his tireless work rate proved a nuisance throughout, as Diego Simeone's men moved back above Valencia and to within six points of first-place Barcelona.
Griezmann set the tone for a convincing display, smashing home his 15th league goal of the season after pouncing on an error in midfield.
Although Cordoba was afforded plenty of the ball, Atletico was in control in its first match since Simeone signed a contract extension last month.
Saul extended Atleti's lead before the break with a neat header and, while Cordoba improved in the second half, the away side rarely looked troubled.
Bebe did almost pull one back for the hosts when his long-range effort struck the crossbar in the 77th minute, but Atletico ultimately cruised to all three points, inflicting a 10th successive defeat on Cordoba and reopening a four-point gap ahead of in-form Sevilla.
Saul urged his Atletico teammates not to take struggling Cordoba lightly in the build-up and the champion began full of purpose.
It took Atleti just five minutes to break the deadlock, as Griezmann seized on Bruno Zuculini's tame pass, ran at the nervous Jose Crespo and rifled into the bottom-right corner from 20 yards.
Atletico doubled its advantage six minutes before the break, as Saul arrived late in the penalty area and met Gimenez's flick-on with a brilliant header that gave Cordoba goalkeeper Juan Carlos no chance.
Jose Antonio Romero introduced on-loan Valencia attacker Fede Cartabia at the interval and the Argentine made a difference, as the home side became more fluid in the final third.
Romero's halftime tweaking also brought more from Nabil Ghilas who, after twisting and turning in the penalty area, was denied a goal by a crucial Gimenez block in the 54th minute.
The hosts went desperately close to clawing one back with 13 minutes left, as Bebe's powerful drive from 35 yard smashed against the crossbar.
Cordoba enjoyed some late pressure to excite the home support, as Jan Oblak saved well from Crespo, but it ultimately proved to be too little too late.