Can Atlético Lead The Way In La Liga?

These are truly exciting times in Spain. There are three teams who could end the weekend top of the table and there's a very decent chance that Atletico could lead...

Last Updated: 13/12/13 at 13:17 Post Comment

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The football equivalent of a comet made entirely of rubber bands and ice cream buzzing towards the earth is taking place in La Liga this weekend with a change of leadership at the top of the table quite possible.

This event is rare enough with a dominant Barcelona/Real Madrid tending to take the lead and then hanging on for months on end. Indeed, it was around about this time 12 months ago that José Mourinho gave up on last year's Primera title. But what really makes this weekend extra special is that one of three teams could end up leading La Liga.

Barcelona are currently perched atop the tree with 40 points, having dropped only four all season. Three of those were lost a fortnight ago in the last round of action - the abysmal Copa del Rey jammed the airwaves last weekend - when the Catalan club came a cropper in San Mamés against Athletic Bilbao, something Barca have been prone to do in recent years.

On the footballing side, matters have stabilised a little with Neymar picking up a Messi-esque hat-trick against Celtic in the Champions League. Unfortunately, though, Barcelona have once again been their own worst enemy by kicking off a hullabaloo about Leo Messi's contract. In theory, it should have been all quiet on that particular front with him being away in Argentina receiving treatment with a deal freshly signed earlier this year.

Instead, the club's finance VP Javier Faus said in an interview that he saw absolutely no reason to touch Messi's contract once again, when asked about the matter. 'AS' reports that the now very-miffed forward was expecting to have an improvement early next year with the player receiving and turning down huge offers from other clubs over the summer.

Club president Sandro Rosell then chipped in to announce that "while I am president, I see it very unlikely that Messi would leave the club, but not to say impossible". The news then broke that Sporting Director Andoni Zubizaretta would be travelling to Argentina on Tuesday to meet Messi. Of course, that would be a perfectly natural course of action anyway, in order to check on the mental and physical well-being of the team's star player, but in the soap opera world of La Liga, 2+2+2 = Bedlam.

Football matters will bump Messi off the papers for at least a few hours with Barcelona hosting Villarreal on Saturday in what could be a corker of a game. Villarreal are newly promoted and have had a blistering start to the season, although they have slowed down a little of late to leave the team in fifth. It's a side that is widely admired in Spain for a pleasingly frenetic, high-energy style. "They play some of the best football in this league," said Tata Martino at Friday's press conference, "they have match-changing players across the park, although some will be missing." Two of those absentees that see Villarreal's chances lessoned a little are inspirational playmaker Cani and midfield general Bruno - footballers who stuck with the east coast club during their exile to the second division last season.

Should Barcelona slip up at the Camp Nou in any manner then Atlético Madrid are waiting to pounce. The Rojiblancos are tied on points with Barcelona and host a typically troubled Valencia at the Vicente Calderón on Sunday night. However, Diego Simeone will follow the same philosophy of looking only at his own team and genuinely taking things one game at a time.

"If we don't think that way, then we could lose at any time," says David Villa, who compared his Argentinean manager to a couple of his former bosses. "He's a mixture of Luis Aragonés with his ability to motivate and Pep Guardiola in the way he studies opponents."

Although Real Madrid are three points behind Barcelona and six goals in terms of the difference (head to head only comes into play once both matches between rivals have been completed) a cricket score against Osasuna, a defeat for Barcelona and defeat for Atlético Madrid could see Carlo Ancelotti's side at the top of the table.

The first of those occurrences looks a possibility on paper with Osasuna struggling to score and a little wobbly at the back. However, this club has traditionally caused problems for Spain's Big Two with Barcelona drawing 0-0 in Pamplona in October and Real Madrid only managing the same score-line last season.

A weakened Villarreal and Barcelona's Camp Nou form in the league which sees the club with a 100% record for 14 months, suggests that the league leaders will remain in top spot, but there is still a vulnerability to the side both up front and at the back with Messi and Víctor Valdés both missing. It's a weakness Villarreal are more than capable of exploiting to leave Atlético Madrid as Kings of Spain on Sunday night.

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may well get slated by other United fans for this, but out of the three contenders, I'd far prefer Liverpool to win the title. Yes some elements of their fanbase can be a bit OTT, yes they're our biggest rivals and yes it will make our poor season feel even more like the end of an era (Fergie's gone, Liverpool are back on top). However I just have to applaud Brendan Rodgers and the way he's turned Liverpool around in just a couple of seasons. It...

Please Stop Telling Us What To Think


ooray! We are all excited now, we beat a very mediocre team! With all due respect to WHU supporters, not winning that game shouldn't even be a consideration. This is the problem, there is no winning mentality at the Emirates - we're all congratulating ourselves beating a team that we have a winning record against.

Wenger hails important win


s this meant to be an aspiration for United supporters? Moyes mediocrity strikes again. I see the Bayern boys don't want to sign for him, and his reputation amongst the senior European coaches make other key signings unlikely.

De Gea's Europa League target

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