Barca, Atletico to Battle in La Liga Showdown
The Rojiblancos have the chance to win a historic double of La Liga and the Champions League
La Liga is set for a thrilling finish as Barcelona host leaders Atletico Madrid in a winner-takes-all showdown at the Nou Camp on the last day of the Spanish campaign on Saturday.
Only twice in the history of Spain’s top f light has the title been decided by one match involving the two possible league winners on the last day. When the calendar was set last year, few would have expected Atletico to be competing with Barcelona for the championship at this stage.
Atletico have not been in contention in La Liga since they last won in 1996, but are now have a chance to claim a historic La Liga and European double.
Whatever the outcome of Saturday’s game, thoughts will immediately turn to the following week’s Champions League final against Real in Lisbon, when Atletico will be looking to win their first continental crown and deny their glamorous neighbours, Real Madrid, a record 10th title.
After 37 matches in La Liga, Atletico are top on 89 points, with Barca on 86 and Real on 84. If Barca, chasing a fifth title in six years, beat Atletico on Saturday they will be champions as they would have a better head-to-head record after the title rivals drew 0-0 at the Calderon in January at Madrid. A draw would be enough for Atletico to become the first side other than Real and Barcelona to win La Liga since Valencia did in 2004. The last time the title was decided is this manner was in 1950-51, when Atletico beat Sevilla, while the only other occasion was five years earlier when Sevilla edged Barcelona. Atletico and Barca have already played each other five times this season in a series of closely-fought encounters. Though the Catalan club have had the lion’s share of possession, they’ve been thwarted by a mean defence. Barcelona edged Atletico Madrid to clinch the Spanish Super Cup, when Neymar’s goal in a 1-1 draw at the Calderon in the first leg was enough to secure victory after the two played out a 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp in the return leg. Atletico were tenacious enough to hold the Catalan team at the Vicente Calderon in January in the La Liga. Later, Atletico clung on for a 1-1 draw at the Nou Camp in last month’s Champions League quarterfinal first leg and then won 1-0 in the return leg.
Andres Iniesta (left), Gabi Fernandez (centre) and Raul Garcia in action