Thursday, Nov 27, 2014

Atletico Madrid can seal La Liga title if Barcelona, Real Madrid slip up

Atletico Madrid players celebrate their victory against Chelsea in Champions League semifinal on Wednesday. (AP) Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa (center right) celebrates with his teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the Champions League semifinal against Chelsea on Wednesday. (AP)
Reuters | Madrid | Posted: May 1, 2014 4:55 pm

Atletico Madrid can crown a superb week and wrap up what would be a remarkable La Liga title triumph if they win at Levante on Sunday and Barcelona and Real Madrid lose at home to Getafe and Valencia.

Diego Simeone’s outperforming Atletico side set up a Champions League final clash against Real with a 3-1 comeback win at Chelsea on Wednesday, the latest in a series of brilliant performances that have transformed the club into a genuine force in Spain and Europe.

Victory at Levante would put Atletico on 91 points with two games left, while defeat for second-placed Barca against Getafe on Saturday would leave them stuck on 84 and end their bid for a fifth title in six years.

Barca host Atletico on the final day of the season.

Even if they lost on Sunday, Real, third on 82 points and with a game in hand, could still draw level with Atletico if they win their last three games and their city rivals lose their last two.

However, Atletico’s superior head-to-head record means they would seal their first La Liga title since 1996.

Real host Valencia on Sunday and play their match in hand at Real Valladolid on Wednesday.

Former Argentina captain Simeone was a key member of the 1996 team, who also won the King’s Cup that season, and the commitment and intensity he showed as a player seems to have rubbed off on his current charges.

They have maintained their challenge in La Liga and Europe’s elite club competition despite having a relatively thin squad compared with far richer rivals Barca and Real and a gruelling calendar.

“The team has known how to cope when it is suffering the whole way through the season,” left back Filipe Luis told Spanish television after the win at Stamford Bridge.

“We will try to beat Levante as it is the next match and the most important one for the time being,” added the Brazilian.

While Atletico and Real were busy in Europe, Barca, eliminated by Atletico in the Champions League quarter-finals, were quietly preparing for their game against struggling Getafe and mourning the death of former coach Tito Vilanova.

Vilanova was Pep Guardiola’s assistant during four trophy-laden years between 2008 and 2012 before stepping up to the top job when Guardiola, now at Bayern Munich, decided to take a sabbatical year.

Diagnosed with throat cancer, Vilanova stepped down after one season in charge, when Barca won La Liga with a record-equalling points haul of 100.

Survival fight

Vilanova died aged 45 on April 25 and the Barca players, several of whom, including Lionel Messi and Cesc Fabregas, had known him since their teens, will be desperate to honour his memory by pushing Atletico all the way in La Liga.

May 1 marks the 25th continued…

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