Barcelona, Atletico Madrid in epic show­down

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

BARCELONA’s 100 per­cent start to the Liga sea­son will be se­verely tested at Atletico Madrid on Satur­day in an at­mos­phere cer­tain to be in­ten­si­fied by po­lit­i­cal fer­vour.

It will be the first time Barca have vis­ited the cap­i­tal since a dis­puted ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence in Cat­alo­nia which has stoked ten­sions with the Spanish govern­ment. As the Cata­lan re­gion’s most fa­mous ex­port, Ernesto Valverde’s Barca side can ex­pect an even more in­tim­i­dat­ing wel­come from the Atletico fans than usual.

Barcelona cap­tain An­dres Ini­esta said he had been af­fected by the un­easy at­mos­phere in the coun­try and has called for a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion.

“No-one likes that we’ve reached a sit­u­a­tion whereby peo­ple are at each other’s throats be­cause they carry dif­fer­ent flags,” he said in an in­ter­view with Catalunya Ra­dio.

“It’s a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion and those in charge need to re­solve it... No-one can be com­fort­able with this sit­u­a­tion, you can’t ig­nore what’s been go­ing on.”

The po­lit­i­cal ten­sion has capped a dif­fi­cult start to the cam­paign for Barca off the pitch.

Barca’s board, heav­ily crit­i­cised for their lack of trans­fer ac­tiv­ity in the close-sea­son af­ter sell­ing Brazil striker Ney­mar, faced a cam­paign to force a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in them, which ul­ti­mately failed.

They have also suf­fered with in­juries and lost record sign­ing Ous­mane Dem­bele to in­jury for four months and had to make do with­out striker Luis Suarez at the start of the cam­paign. On the pitch, how­ever, things could not have gone bet­ter as the Liga lead­ers sit five points ahead of near­est chal­lengers Sevilla fol­low­ing seven con­sec­u­tive wins.

They will face their tough­est op­po­nents since the sea­son be­gan in Atletico, who are fourth in the stand­ings, six points off Barca but also un­beaten. — Su­perS­port

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