Saturday, May 17, 2014

Spanish lions collide: Showdown in Camp Nou as Barcelona take on Atletico Madrid for La Liga title!

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This season, we have seen domestic competitions like the Barclays Premier League go down to the wire with the winner being decided on the last day of the season. In similar fashion, one of the biggest leagues of the world, La Liga (LIGA BBVA), sees the top two teams, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid go head to head for 90 minutes in the quest to clinch the title and its happening tonight at the Camp Nou!

This is more than just a title decider. One the one hand, Barcelona want to retain their league title and their supremacy while Atletico are looking for their second title after an 18 year wait. This will give Atletico the momentum going into the UEFA Champions League final against derby rivals Real Madrid in Lisbon on the 24th of May.

Barcelona may look the stronger side on paper, but face a stiff opposition in a team that knocked them out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals earlier this year. At the same time Barcelona has had one of their roughest seasons. The Spanish giants had to cope with the loss of former beloved manager Tito Vilanova, UEFA sanctions and Argentine sensation Lionel Messi’s mixed form, among other issues. Messi, arguably the best player in the world, recently signed a lucrative contract extension making him the highest paid footballer in the world overtaking Real Madrid’s Portugese icon Cristiano Ronaldo.

Fortunately for the Catalans, the UEFA sanctions prohibiting them from transfer business for the next two windows have been suspended. Since this is the only title silverware left to fight for, they will be looking to attack the Atletico defence, retain the title and wrap up their relatively turbulent season with a celebration.
Atletico, on the other hand, can win the title even with a draw as they are three points ahead of the defending champions. Barcelona would equal on points with a win, but will lift the title based on relatively better head-to-head record as well as goal difference.

Barcelona’s 36-year-old long-serving defender Carles Puyol will not be part of the historic match ending his 15 year association with the club as the season wraps up. However, after being sidelined due to injuries, their talented Brazilian forward Neymar, defenders Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba are expected to return to the starting line-up.

Atletico manager Diego Simeone is fortunate to have his strongest offence, Diego Costa, back after nursing a hamstring strain. He would be the key to breaking down the rejuvenated Barca defence. Simeone knows by winning tonight, they would be the first club to break the two horse title race between Real Madrid and Barcelona dominating Spanish football for years.

To their credit, going toe to toe with the two biggest clubs in Spain is no easy feat. It will be a deserved victory for Atletico Madrid who are this season’s underdogs. Similarly, Barcelona are hoping to extend their superiority and snatch a huge victory on the final day of the season.


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