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

The Economic Times - - Q -

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

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