Barcelona star Pedro believes that Atletico Madrid are well and truly in the Liga title race this term as Spanish football heads into its winter break.
The capital club recorded a 3-2 victory over Levante on Saturday and currently sit joint-top with the Blaugrana, who they host in January.
And the Spain international feels that his side will have to see off competition from Diego Simeone's men as well as Real Madrid if they are to retain their crown.
"Atletico have had a sensational return, they're a strong title candidate," he told reporters after scoring a hat-trick in Barca's 5-2 win over Getafe.
"Real Madrid are the stong team - they always are.
"Between now and the last day of the season we will play much better. It was a momentous match we couldn't lose."
Pedro's treble took his tally for the season to 14 in all competitions and the 26-year-old believes he is in the form of his life.
"I feel good physically. I have the luck of scoing goals, I'm on a roll. It's important to bring something to the team. The team's reaction was great."
Barca and Atletico are both five points clear of third-place Real Madrid.