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All eyes on Barcelo as they face Atletico

Madrid, Jan 9: Spanish club Barcelo’s home ground – the Camp Nou Stadium – will be the focus of attention in the La Liga when the hosts take on champions Atletico Madrid in a crucial match on Monday.

Last season Atletico clinched the title on the very concluding day of the season with a draw away at Barcelo, but circumstances have changed drastically since that dramatic evening in May.

Atletico travel to the stadium on a high after defeating Real Madrid 2–0 in the Kings Cup on Wednesday, but Barcelo have slipped into a chaos with the departure of sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta coupled with the club president Jose Maria Bartomeu’s decision to bring forward the presidency elections by a year.

Barcelo beat Elche 5–0 in the Cup Thursday, but it is the game against Atletico that will truly mark Barcelo’s season.

Coach Luis Enrique has been under pressure after reportedly falling out with talisman Lionel Messi and despite assurances of his job being safe, it is hard to see how coach Luis Enrique could survive if his side lose.

Messi and forward Neymar will both start for Barcelo along with striker Luis Suarez, while it remains to be seen whether Ferndo Torres, in his second stint with the club, will start for Atletico.

League leaders Real have the chance to forget their poor start to the new year when Espanyol visit the Santiago Berbeu on Saturday. Coach Carlo Ancelotti will have a full strength side out and will expect to see a run of two consecutive defeats come to an end against a rival that traditiolly leaves Madrid’s ground empty handed.

Saturday also sees Valencia, fresh from beating Real travel to face a Celta Vigo side which has failed to score in its last seven league outings, while Malaga and Villarreal face each other in what promises to be an entertaining match between two sides with ambitions of qualifying for Europe at the end of the season.

Saturday also sees SD Eibar play at home against Getafe while Sunday kicks off with an Andalusia derby as Almeria, who have won both of their league games since coach Jose Igcio Martinez took over, entertain Sevilla.

Athletic Bilbao need to rediscover their league form and bottom of the table Elche should provide three points on their visit to the San Mames Stadium, while Grada coach Joaquin Caparros faces the prospect of getting sacked if his side fails to win at home to an improving Real Sociedad. Grada have failed to win since September and have slipped to second from bottom in the table. Levante face Deportivo la Coru on Friday while Rayo Vallecano take on Cordoba on Monday. IANS

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Ankur Kalita

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