Eye on La Liga : Atletico Madrid can dare dream

Reigning champions Barcelona find themselves in an unfamiliar territory of eighth position in the Spanish La Liga table standing, and the situation could even become worse after this weekend.

Reigning champions Barcelona find themselves in an unfamiliar territory of eighth position in the Spanish La Liga table standing, and the situation could even become worse after this weekend.

Pep Guardiola’s side, favourites to retain the league crown visit early-season pacesetters Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon stadium on Sunday, where they have lost on their last three visits.

Having finished last season by winning the Europa League and reaching the final of the Copa del Rey, Atletico, and they started the current campaign with a European Super Cup win over Uefa Champions League winners Inter Milan on top of that, they have notched back-to-back victories in La Liga, so you can say they’re riding the crest of a wave at present.

Those two back-to-back wins have left Sanchez Flores’ side at the top of the table standings, level on six points with Valencia, and optimism will be growing in the Vicente Calderon camp that they can push the big two of Real Madrid and Barca all the way this season.

Sunday’s game, therefore, offers Atletico Madrid the perfect chance to showcase their credentials against the mighty Barcelona, a side with which they have been involved in some epic battles in recent seasons. The last seven league meetings between the two have produced 39 goals.

Having started the season with an excellent 3-0 triumph away to Racing Santander on the opening weekend, the reigning champions suffered a shock 2-0 home defeat to promoted Hercules last weekend.

But they bounced back with an impressive 5-1 Champions League mauling of Greece champions Panathinaikos in midweek; however, the trip to Atletico will be as difficult as it has proved in the last three seasons.

Last season, the game at the Vicente Calderon was the only one Guardiola’s team lost. You can say Atletico have proved to be Barcelona’s boggy opponents in La Liga. Historically, the capital side is an uncomfortable opponent for the Catalan side and they will have to try to do a lot better on Sunday to have a chance of breaking the current bad run.

With on-form striker Diego Forlan starting the new season the same way he finished the last and the return to full fitness of Sergio Aguero, it’s important that Barca don’t give Atletico many chances. On top of the two South American strikers, they have other great players. Sanchez Flores’ side is one of the best teams in Europe at the moment.

Before Barca make their daunting trip to the capital, Real Madrid will be looking to go four points ahead of their archrivals as they continue their steady progress under Jose Mourinho when they make the trip to last season’s Second Division champions Real Sociedad on Saturday.

Real were so boring on the opening weekend and Barcelona were a joy to watch, but going into the third round of matches, the Mourinho effect appears to starting to take shape.

Having drawn 0-0 with Real Mallorca in their opening league match and then beaten Osasuna 1-0 last weekend, Madrid saw off Ajax 2-0 in their first Champions League match in midweek.

Like Barca and Real, joint-Primera Division leaders Valencia also enjoyed a successful start to their Champions League campaign as they thumped Bursaspor 4-0 in Turkey.

Unai Emery’s side take on Barcelona’s last weekend conquerors, Hercules this weekend. Hercules will have a chance for another upset against their more illustrious neighbors.

Still basking in the glory of their shock Nou Camp win, Hercules will be hoping to continue their impressive start to life in the big time division, and anything other than defeat at home should be considered more than enough for the newly promoted outfit.

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