MADRID - Atletico Madrid could be leaders in Spain on Sunday for the first time since 1996 when they pulled off a historic league and cup double.
However they will have to beat lowly Osasuna at home and hope Barcelona do not win on Saturday at Rayo Vallecano.
Atletico and Barca are joint top with 22 points apiece, with Radamel Falcao and Lionel Messi banging in the goals at will.
Messi tops the scorers’ chart with 11 goals, followed by Falcao and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo on nine.
Falcao has been the new idol of the Atletico fans since taking the place of Diego Forlan in 2011.
“He is among the best three players in the world, and has no need to envy either Messi or Ronaldo,” said coach Diego Simeone, the man who has managed to revitalize Atletico in just 10 months.
“He is growing game by game and really enjoying life in the penalty area, which is his natural habitat. He has become more aggressive, powerful and determined. There are very few forwards like him nowadays.”
The Colombian hitman will be raring to go against Osasuna, because Simeone has decided to rest him for Thursday’s Europa League clash against Academica Coimbra.
For both games Simeone will be without injured Turkish winger Arda Turan.
Barcelona, meanwhile, will go to Vallecas in good heart after Tuesday’s late 2-1 defeat of Celtic, but again without injured defenders Dani Alves, Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol. In addition, sweeper Javier Mascherano is suspended.