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.
Mel said: "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."
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