Barca with title in sight after strike lifted

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Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez reacts during the UEFA Champions League football match second leg semi final FC Bayern Munich vs FC Barcelona in Munich. AFP PHOTO

Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez reacts during the UEFA Champions League football match second leg semi final FC Bayern Munich vs FC Barcelona in Munich. AFP PHOTO

MADRID: Barcelona can round off a fine week by clinching their 23rd La Liga title and exacting revenge on Atletico Madrid for losing out in last season’s title decider at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday (Monday in Manila).

A proposed players’ strike had threatened the La Liga calendar this weekend, but that threat was lifted on Thursday when Spain’s National Court concluded a strike would “cause a serious organisational disorder” to the end of the league season.

Atletico won the league with a 1-1 draw the Camp Nou on May 17 last year and Barca can return the favor exactly a year later as long as they match Real Madrid’s result at Espanyol.

Luis Enrique’s men remained on course for a treble by sealing their place in the Champions League final against Juventus early next month on Tuesday despite a first defeat in 19 games 3-2 away at Bayern Munich as the Catalans progressed 5-3 on aggregate.


“We are just one victory away in every competition from being champions,” said Enrique.

“The feelings are very positive. It is a great moment, but now we need to finish it off.

“The evaluation of the season will come at the end.”

Atletico eye third place
However, Atletico also have plenty to play for as they are one win away from sealing third place and therefore avoiding a tricky Champions League qualifier in August.

Fernando Torres came off the bench to score the equalizer in a 2-2 draw at Levante last weekend that guaranteed a top four finish for Diego Simeone’s men, but insisted he doesn’t want to see Barcelona celebrating at the Calderon on Sunday.

“I hope that they don’t win it here. We hope to win the game and assure third place,” he told the club’s website.

“Atletico were champions last year in the Camp Nou, and it is not that strange in football that destiny decides Barcelona have the chance to be champions in our stadium.

“That doesn’t mean anything to us though because it is not our fight. We want to be third and achieve the objective we have.”

Atletico’s chances could be boosted by the absence of Barca striker Luis Suarez.

The Uruguayan set up both Barca’s goals, scored by Neymar, at the Allianz Arena in midweek but had to be replaced at half-time with a hamstring problem and it unlikely to be risked with the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals less than a month away.

Real Madrid have to pick themselves up from the bitter disappointment of losing their Champions League semi-final to Juventus in midweek if they are to have any chance of winning a major trophy this season.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti may have taken charge of his last game from the Madrid bench as he will serve a two-game touchline ban for their remaining Liga fixtures for sarcastically applauding the officials in last week’s 2-2 draw at Valencia.

Defender Sergio Ramos is also expected to miss the rest of the season with a calf injury picked up against Juventus.

The battle for European places and to avoid relegation means that only four teams have nothing to play for with two games remaining.

Valencia can secure their return to Champions League football with victory at home to Celta Vigo.

AFP

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