A look ahead to this weekend’s title showdown at the Nou Camp. Tomorrow night, Spain could be crowning champions that aren’t either Barcelona or Real Madrid for the first time in a decade. Valencia were the last team to break the duopoly of those sides, but it is Atletico Madrid who are threatening to break it again since 1995/96 campaign. Diego Simeone’s side need a draw at the Nou Camp to win the title, but Barcelona will retain their crown if they win at their home ground owing to what will be a better head-to-head record.
This is it! Not since 1951 has La Liga been decided on the final day of the season between the top two teams fighting for it. This is, for all intents and purposes, a final like any other and it should not disappoint.
Atletico are going for an historic double this season, as they are also in the final of the Champions League. Barcelona are their last remaining obstacle to win the league and they definitely have the capacity to, at the very least, draw, even with the game being playing at Camp Nou. Just weeks ago in the quarter finals of the Champions League, Atletico went to the Ciudad Condal and secured a richly deserved draw. They just need to repeat that performance and La Liga will be theirs.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone is being tipped to name the same XI who drew with Barcelona at Camp Nou in the Champions League. This means that Diego Costa will be included, despite not being 100% fit. He is unlikely to last the whole game, but Simeone will not mind. He wants his strongest XI and will demand the maximum effort from his players, even with the Champions League final just a week away.
Barcelona must be pleasantly surprised by their situation. They seemingly had thrown in the towel after drawing with Getafe the week before last. Coach Tata Martino, Xavi and Sergio Busquests all were looking ahead to the future, rather than the present. Yet still, they now have the chance to win La Liga and can do so in front of their home fans. Barca, like Atletico, have not been in great form of late, but just like the visitors, expect them to lift their game for this ‘final’. Carles Puyol, who is certain to leave the club this summer, had a homage paid to him on Thursday for his years of service and another Barca stalwart, injured goalkeeper Victor Valdes, this week wrote an open letter to say goodbye to the only club he has ever played for.
Barca, like always, will dominate possession, but they have lacked penetration in recent games and have failed to create clear-cut chances. This will suit Atletico perfectly, as they will be happy to sit back and be organised and discplined in defence and look to hurt the hosts in the counter attack. There will not be many goals in this game and, indeed, it will be the little details that count.
Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Neymar have not been training with the rest of the squad this week. Each has undergone a specific training regime. Pique looks unlikely to play and the same goes for Neymar, but Alba is expected to recover in time.
For Atletico Madrid:
Diego Godin is again available after his ban and will likely return to partner Miranda in defence.
Doubts remain about the fitness of star striker Diego Costa, but the Hispano-Brazilian did partake in training with the squad on yesterday and he is expected to start.
Halftimeng Prediction: Barcelona 1-1 Atletico Madrid