Real Betis coach Pepe Mel admits it would be great for Spanish football if in-form Atletico Madrid can break the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid this season, but does not believe they will.
Atletico made it 27 points from a possible 30 so far this campaign with their 5-0 mauling of Mel's Betis on Sunday night, and the Rojiblancos are now just a point behind reigning champions Barca and five above city rivals Real in third.
Having already beaten Real at the Bernabeu this season, while drawing twice with Barca in the Spanish Super Cup in August, expectations are high that Atletico could finally end the domination the big two have had in Spain for most of the last decade.
However, while he would like to see that, Mel expects Barca and Real - as they have done in eight of the last nine seasons - to occupy the top two positions come the end of the campaign.
He told reporters: "Atletico are the only team capable of getting between Madrid and Barca and the only team who have players who are capable of getting between Madrid and Barca in a national team.
"They go out giving it everything, they work very hard, deserve what they are getting and right now are a very difficult team.
"I would like to say they are a candidate for the title, but in the end it will be Barcelona and Madrid, one first and the other second.
"Last season Atletico had a great season and finished third. The other two teams have more in their closets.
"(But) we hope that at the end of the season they can continue at the same level because it would be good for Spanish football."
Atletico swept aside Betis at the Vicente Calderon through a first-minute strike from teenager Oliver Torres, and second-half efforts from David Villa (two), Diego Costa and Gabi.
Villa's brace ended a barren spell stretching back to six weeks for Spain's record goalscorer and he was understandably pleased to be back on the scoresheet, although he insisted getting the three points was the most important thing for him.
"I'm happy, not for the goals, firstly for the team's victory and especially for the good feeling I've had," said Villa, who was forced to pull out of the last Spain squad with an ankle injury.
"Today I felt fine after suffering a long time on the pitch. I had to stop for a bit because of the ankle. At the end of the day I've stayed calm, because I'm beginning to feel good and I've recovered from the discomfort and I knew that sooner or later I would score goals.
"It is always important for a striker to help the team with goals but the team's victory is the most important."