Barça Return To Two Taxing Tests

They're in trouble with the taxman about that Neymar transfer and they also face a tricky trip to Real Sociedad this weekend. It could be advantage Real this weekend...

Last Updated: 21/02/14 at 14:14 Post Comment

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Atlético Madrid's victory against Milan in San Siro on Wednesday was nothing but honest and uncompromising with a few Rojiblanco hallmark touches - a bit of firm booting, some Thibaut Courtois brilliance and a set-piece effort after a defensive slip-up from the Serie A side.

You could not help but suspect that Clarence Seedorf knew exactly what was coming Milan's way with the tie still goalless going into the final minutes but was powerless to do anything about it.

The 1-0 victory for Diego Simeone's side was very much a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin affair from the Vicente Calderón club that now faces an even more Atlético side than Atlético in the form of Osasuna this weekend. They are an outfit from blustery Pamplona that is all about fervent, hostile stands, kicking the goolies out of visiting teams and endless long balls and crosses. It's admirable stuff.

Normally, Atlético would be able to rest up a little and recover from what was a very physical affair in Italy. Normally Atlético would be middling around the European places - in a good year - and have some elbow room to pick up a scrappy draw on the road. But this season is a little bit different for the Madrid side of course, with Atleti involved in the best ménage à trois since Javier Bardem got out his little black book of old girlfriends.

This means that the capital city club have to go straight back into battle to keep up with Real Madrid and Barcelona. The latter also had a tough, old battle on the road in the Champions League this week but picked up a morale-boosting win over Manchester City.

The victory, which was more street-wise than scintillating, helped restore a bit of self belief to the Catalan club which finds it hard to gauge its footballing place in the world whilst floating about in the calm waters of La Liga.

However, reality quickly bit once Barça returned to Spain with the news that they were being charged with tax fraud over the poison nest that is the Neymar transfer, an issue that seems set to trouble the club for years to come, despite local complaints that it is all a conspiracy against them. "All that is happening (with Neymar) just isn't normal," admitted Barça boss Tata Martino, who has had to become au fait with tax law and commissions since taking over at the Camp Nou.

A tough sporting battle awaits on Saturday with a visit to Real Sociedad, a wonderfully vibrant team chasing a Champions League spot who can be extremely tough on their day. The clash is definitely a Basque banana skin for Barça in a title chase that leaves very little margin for error.

The weekend should be the biggest doddle a doddle can be for Real Madrid though; they host Elche in the Bernabéu in the kind of battle that will be over with an opening goal after two minutes, followed by slumber time in the winter sun for the fans. This is another big one for Gareth Bale, who still isn't convincing doubters over his transfer value, having been usurped in the local headlines by youngster Jesé in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, who is serving the final match of a three-game La Liga suspension.

Of the three, Real Madrid are set to have the easiest ride with the strong possibility that the leadership could be in their platinum-plated hands on Monday with the side's rivals having a grim time of it up north.

Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter here

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