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Atletico Madrid - Barca the highlight as Spanish season reaches midway point

English.news.cn   2014-01-09 19:26:57            

MADRID, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- There is one standout game as Spain' s BBVA Primera Liga season reaches its midway point this weekend.

Atletico Madrid versus FC Barcelona may not be a title decided just yet, but it will decide whether or not Atletico Madrid, who are level on points with Barca, are true title challengers or whether we can expect their challenge to drop away in the coming months.

Likewise the game, which will be played on Saturday night, will show just how good Barca are, or whether or not they can be bullied off the pitch by a side of Atletico' s intensity and class.

The good news for Barca is that Leo Messi is back after scoring two goals as a second half substitute in the Copa del Rey and Neymar, who missed Wednesday' s match with a stomach bug, should also be fit.

The even better news for Barca is that the duo have not been missed as Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez have been in fine form of late and Barca coach, Tata Martino faces a selection problem in deciding who will start the game on the bench.

Atletico will also be at full strength after defender Juanfran was cleared to play and the Vicente Calderon Stadium will look to see their side stifle Barca in midfield and then hurt them on the break as Diego Costa bullies his way through the visiting defense.

Fascinating though that game is, it is not the only match this weekend, after Friday' s opener between a needy Granada and an even more needy Valladolid, Saturday kicks off with fourth place Athletic Club Bilbao at home to Almeria.

Athletic have started the year with two defeats in games in which they have dominated but failed to score and will look to put that right against a side struggling just outside of the relegation zone.

Valencia will look to continue their recovery under new coach, Juan Antonio Pizzi away to a Celta Vigo side that plays good football, but leaks goals. Valencia have looked more intense in their last two games and Celta could struggle in defense against a well-motivated team.

Saturday ends as Sevilla look to claim their fourth consecutive away win in Elche, where the home side look to have run out of steam and are dropping towards the danger zone, despite trying to play attractive football.

Real Madrid' s trip to play Espanyol is the highlight of Sunday as Cristiano Ronaldo would like to prepare to travel to the Balon D' Or awards with more goals to his credit and Xabi Alonso celebrate his new contract with three points.

Espanyol, however, are capable of imposing a high rhythm on their home games and may think they have a chance of taking a point against a team that traditionally does well against them.

Sunday also sees a Madrid derby between Getafe, who need to return to form after a poor run of results, and Rayo Vallecano, who are second bottom of the table and have the worst defense in Spain, despite their brave attacking instincts.

Bottom of the table Betis simply have to beat fellow strugglers, Osasuna, while Levante entertain Malaga in a mid-table clash before the round of matches ends on Monday with a fascinating game between Villarreal and Real Sociedad: two sides that are in form and looking to qualify for Europe at the end of the campaign.

Editor: Yang Yi
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