MADRID: A bitter standoff dragging in everyone from politicians to footballers hits a climax Sunday when nationalists in Catalonia hope voters will back them to strike out for independence from Spain. Insults and threats have been flying between Barcelona and Madrid this week ahead of the regional election that Catalan nationalists have framed as a vote on whether to break away and create a new state in Europe. Catalonia’s nationalist president Artur Mas, tipped by opinion polls to win the vote, called on Catalans to “Give the finger” to their opponents. His adversaries have branded him a dodgy liar. “It is an unusually tense atmosphere,” said Pablo Simon, a political scientist at Carlos III University in Madrid. US President Barack Obama and British premier David Cameron, among others, have called for Spain to stay united.