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Barcelona v Atletico Madrid match preview

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Barcelona welcome Atletico Madrid to the Nou Camp this evening, in a game which will decide who wins the La Liga title this season. 

Madrid know that anything other than a defeat will hand them their first Spanish League title for 18 years, in a League which has been dominated by both Real Madrid and Barcelona in recent years. 

For many, an Atletico win would be a breath of fresh air against a Barcelona side who have had an odd season to date, with on and off the field problems meaning that they have had a trophyless campaign so far. 

And come 7pm this evening in Catalonia, Spain could be crowning Atletico as champions, breaking a 10 year dominance from Madrid and Barcelona, with Valencia the last other side to win the Liga, back in the May of 2004. 

Both sides have endured faultering finishes to their respective campaign’s, with both sides failing to win their last two fixtures, with the League title boiling down to the final 90 minutes, in the most amazing title race Spain have ever seen. 

Barcelona head into the mouth watering fixture as favourites, having come back from the brink a few weeks ago, the Catalan giants will be hoping to send Carles Puyol into a happy retirement, by grabbing the trophy off Atletico. 

They were five points behind both Atletico and Real a few weeks ago, but a home win will be the perfect end to a tough season for all involved at the club. 

The usual suspects will be key for a Barcelona triumph this evening, with Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez both enjoying successful personal campaign’s to date, with the pair all set for the World Cup finals in Brazil this summer. 

Under pressure manager Tato Martino will look to both Lionel Messi, who has scored 28 Liga goals this season, and the returning Neymar. 

Messi, who signed a new deal at the club yesterday is ready to put Atletico to the sword, with the little Argentine also enjoying a superb personal season, however he is still smarting over the player of the year award, as he was pipped by his arch rival, Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Neymar will return to the fold after a month away, a timely boost for the club. 

Carles Puyol could possibly make his last ever appearance for the club, meanwhile, goalkeeper Victor Valdes is also recovering from a cruciate ligamant injury he sustained in March, with Pinto set to take the keeper’s place once again. 

Focusing on Atletico, and Simeone’s side need just a point to claim their first title for 18 years, and a draw will be good enough, due to the head to head record. 

The side from the capital have had an amazing season, where they have topped La Liga for the majority, and have manged to reach a Champions League final. 

They could, and should have wrapped up proceedings last week, however, a 1-1 draw at home to Malaga has took it to the final day.  

Heading into the encounter, there is little to tell between the two, with Simeone’s men having the upper hand, after winning the Champions League Quarter final over two legs. 

Diego Costa will be a key figure to a title win, with the striker probably playing his final Liga game before departing to Chelsea, and could leave that special parting gift. 

Costa has been superb this season, and has bagged 27 League goals, with the Brazilian also opting to represent his adopted nation, Spain, at the World Cup finals this summer. 

Both Messi and Costa, who have had superb seasons, still trail Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored 31 goals. 

Other players who can be called upon are Diego and David Villa, who have also been brilliant this season, as Villa, who has scored 13 goals himself this season, will be looking to crush his former teams title hopes. 

Atletico have no real fresh injury worries, and are all set for Saturday evening. 

By Ben Reardon 

@BenReardon1

 

 

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