Barca, Atletico jostle for top position

MADRID - After a short winter break, Spain’s top-flight clubs are back in action this weekend with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid jostling for position at the top of the table and a Basque derby also on the cards.
Barca have been boosted by the return to the squad of goalkeeper Victor Valdes after injury.  Net photo.
Barca have been boosted by the return to the squad of goalkeeper Victor Valdes after injury. Net photo.

MADRID - After a short winter break, Spain’s top-flight clubs are back in action this weekend with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid jostling for position at the top of the table and a Basque derby also on the cards.

Reigning champions Barcelona and Diego Simeone’s Atletico are level on points at the top and are due to face each other in a mouthwatering fixture in Madrid next weekend.

Prior to that, though, Atletico go to Malaga on Saturday and Barcelona entertain Elche on Sunday before both sides have Copa del Rey ties to think about in midweek.

Atletico, who have signed Argentine midfielder Jose Ernesto Sosa on loan from Metalist Kharkiv until the end of the season, will face a Malaga side who won their last two league games of 2013 to climb up into mid-table.

Brazilian full-back Filipe Luis insists that the Rojiblancos are fully focused on their trip to La Rosaleda as they look to keep the pressure on Barcelona.

“Knowing the coach and the squad, nobody is thinking about the Barcelona game. Maybe the supporters are, but we all know that the Malaga match is vital,” he said.

Both Atletico and Barca have enjoyed stunning starts to the campaign, winning 15 and drawing one of 17 games in La Liga, but the Catalans have not always performed convincingly since Gerardo Martino took over as coach in the summer.

Nevertheless, the champions have been boosted by the return to the squad of goalkeeper Victor Valdes after injury, while Lionel Messi is also edging closer to a comeback.

Barca midfielder Andres Iniesta is hoping a win against Elche - who sit just two points above the drop zone - can set his team up for a successful 2014.

“A good new year for us means winning everything” said the man who scored Spain’s World Cup-winning goal in 2010.

Real Madrid, who sit third in the table, five points adrift of the top two, are in action on the Monday Three Kings Day holiday with a home fixture against Celta Vigo at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The first weekend of the New Year features the enticing prospect of a Basque derby between fifth-placed Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao at Anoeta.

Subscribe to The New Times E-Paper


You want to chat directly with us? Send us a message on WhatsApp at +250 788 310 999    

 

Follow The New Times on Google News