Saturday, May 11, 2013


Sports:Tough Calderon test as Barca look to assure title

MADRID,- FC Barcelona can seal the BBVA Primera Liga title on Sunday night when they visit Atletico Madrid in the Vicente Calderon Stadium.

Barca could indeed kick off on Sunday as champions should Real Madrid fail to win away to Espanyol, in which case Tito Vilanova's side would take to the pitch with a guard of honor made up of the Atletico players.

The fact they have had no midweek game means Vilanova will be able to play his strongest available 11 with Leo Messi back in the side following his incredible cameo which saw Barca to their 4-2 win at home to Betis last weekend.

As he had done the previous week in Bilbao, Messi went onto the pitch with the game in the balance and turned it in Barca's favor with two moments of magic. He will play in attack alongside either David Villa or Christian Tello, who has been in fine form of late, and Alexis Sanchez who has also been close to his best in the closing weeks of the season.

Sergio Busquets has recovered from a pelvic injury and will be in midfield alongside Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, while the defense will be made up of Dani Alves, Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique.

That leaves one place in doubt with Adriano Coreira favorite to play alongside Pique, although Eric Abidal and Javier Mascherano, who are both back in full training, have a chance of playing.

Abidal has been the subject of speculation this week due to the fact that he has still not penned a new deal and given that his current contract expires at the end of the season, it looks increasingly as if the popular Frenchman, whose battle against liver cancer won him the affection of nearly all football fans in Spain, could be leaving at the end of the season.

Atletico meanwhile face Real Madrid in the final of the Copa del Rey next Friday, but coach Diego Simeone is unlikely to make concessions ahead of that game and will also play a strong 11.

Atletico' s tough tackling style will look to close Barca down in central midfield, while they are solid in defense.

However, it is in attack where Atletico can really hurt Barcelona with Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa a handful for any defense, while winger Arda Turan allows them to carry out the sort of swift counter-attacks that so hurt Barca.

Falcao's future is shrouded in doubt with rumors of interest from Chelsea and Manchester United, as well as Real Madrid, while Spanish sports paper, Diario AS this Saturday said the Colombian would join Monaco, but then move on to Real Madrid a year later.

This promises to be a tough game for Barca and if Real Madrid do win away to Espanyol, it could be that they have to wait another week before celebrating their fourth league title in five years.

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