La Liga: Plenty to play for as Atletico Madrid take on Barcelona in key clash

Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona go head-to-head in the Metropolitano Stadium on Sunday night in a game that is vital for both sides' qualification

Madrid, March 16 (IANS) Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona go head-to-head in the Metropolitano Stadium on Sunday night in a game that is vital for both sides’ qualification for next season’s UEFA Champions League, as well as the race for this season’s La Liga title.

Both Atletico and Barcelona gave themselves a massive morale boost in midweek as they booked their places in the quarterfinals of this season’s Champions League, with Barca winning 3-1 at home to Napoli, while Atletico Madrid edged Inter Milan on penalties.

Atletico have been drawn against Borussia Dortmund in the last eight, which is arguably the draw they would have wanted, while Barca will face Paris Saint-Germain, who is coached by former Barca player and boss Luis Enrique.

If Enrique’s return to face Barcelona will produce plenty of talking points, Sunday’s game won’t fall far short, reports Xinhua.

Atletico enter the game six points behind Barcelona, who are eight points adrift of leaders Real Madrid. That means Barca have to win if they want to keep their slim hopes of retaining the title alive.

Atletico have a two-point advantage over fifth-placed Athletic Bilbao, but the Basque side could leapfrog them into the top four if they win their home game against Alaves on Saturday night.

The first meeting between the two sides this season was decided by a goal from Joao Felix, who is playing at Barca on loan from Atletico after a breakdown in his relationship with coach Diego Simeone, and the Portuguese forward can expect a hostile reception when he faces his parent club.

The Atletico attack could be led by ex-Barcelona duo Antoine Griezmann and Memphis Depay, who will be highly motivated against their former club.

Atletico are unbeaten in the Metropolitano Stadium in La Liga since January 2023, with a goal from Ousmane Dembele seeing Barcelona win 1-0 on that occasion. Dembele is now at PSG, and Barca will look for 16-year-old Lamine Yamal to provide some inspiration.

–IANS/bsk/

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