Tough Atletico test ahead for Barcelona
FC Barcelona can seal the La Liga title Sunday night when they visit Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.
Barca could indeed kick-off 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 honour made up of the Atletico players, reports Xinhua.
The fact they have had no midweek game means Vilanova will be able to play his strongest available 11 with Lionel 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 favour with two moments of magic. He will play in attack alongside either David Villa or Christian Tello, who has been in fine form, 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 defence will be made up of Dani Alves, Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique.
That leaves one place in doubt with Adriano Coreira favourite 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 Frenchman, whose battle against liver cancer won him the affection of 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 defence. However, it is in attack where Atletico can really hurt Barcelona with Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa a handful for any defence. 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 rumours of interest from Chelsea and Manchester United as well as Real Madrid. Spanish newspaper Diario AS 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.
(Posted on 11-05-2013)