After months of anticipation all eyes will finally turn to the Nou Camp today as Atletico Madrid face off against Barcelona with the La Liga title at stake. All season long the fixture has been touted as a potential title-deciding match and on the eve of the tie it’s obvious that it has lived up to its lofty billing. The most exciting La Liga season in years will all come down to a mere 90 minutes.
Both teams come into the match with different mindsets. Barcelona, having seemingly given up on the season a couple of weeks ago, now find themselves in control of their own destiny. Though the season has already been branded as a failure they can still salvage something, in fact more than just something- the Liga title, on the last day.
Diego Simeone’s squad has been unable to secure the title in the past couple of weeks despite various slipups from both Real Madrid and Barca. While Madrid’s 2-0 defeat at Celta Vigo was the final nail in the coffin for Los Merengues, Barcelona’s draw at Elche coupled with Atletico’s home draw at Malaga has set the table for an unprecedented clash of the titans.
All season long we’ve waited for the capital club’s fairytale run to come apart at the seams but they’ve remained a focused bunch, grinding out results whenever needed. But in order to secure the title it will come down to the biggest test of all, away at Barcelona in front a raucous Nou Camp crowd desperate to spur their home team on.
Atleti however are in the favorable position of only needing a draw to gain the League title. In the previous five meetings between the teams this season four have ended that way with the solitary victory coming courtesy of a Koke strike in the Champions League. It could be argued that Barcelona are due for a victory, in fact it’s a little ludicrous to think that in six meetings against Los Rojiblancos this season the Blaugrana could would not manage at least one victory but stranger things have happened.
However Atleti have come too far to slip at the last hurdle and Simeone will be doing everything he can to keep his highly motivated bunch focused in the wake of what will be the biggest game of their lives, until six days later when they face off against Madrid in the European Cup final.
Barcelona will be without club captain and legend Carles Puyol who’s already played his last game for La Blaugrana. Neymar is also likely to miss the game as he recovers from his foot injury suffered a month ago against Real in the Copa Del Rey Final. One person who will be ready and fit will be Lionel Messi. He’s already mentioned that he wants to win it for the late Tito Villanova and winning La Liga on the last day would surely bring a smile to the Argentine who’s had a relatively up and down season by his standards.
For Los Colchoneros the return of Diego Costa will be welcome news. The Spanish international has netted a 27 goals in only 34 games in La Liga and could be playing his last La Liga match for Atletico in the wake of his pending £32 million move to English Premier League giants Chelsea. Winning La Liga for Atletico would surely be a fitting end to his career in Spain.
But tomorrow’s game is more than just a battle for the league title. In a season that has seen Spanish football reign supreme once more, a victory for Atletico would break the duopoly that has dominated La Liga since the 2003-2004 season when Valencia won. All of Spain will likely be rooting for Atletico but will the Cinderella story have a happy ending? Or will the glass slipper go missing at the most crucial time? Whatever happens it’s sure to be cracking affair.