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Atlético go in pursuit of the title with one eye on Elche

AS AS 11/05/2014 Iñako Díaz-Guerra

Following a week of eye-opening twists and turns, the penultimate league day comes around with a certain degree of certainty: Atleti could clinch the title today. If Málaga win and Barça - this Barça that have the air of uncertainty hanging over them as to whether their minds are on the league or the beach - lose or draw at Elche, El Cholo will have masterminded one of the finest triumphs of them all.

Photo © CHEMA DIAZ

Despite going against his philosophy, Simeone will be forced to think ahead following the thigh injury to Diego Costa. The probable league ‘final’ in the Camp Nou and the certainty of the Champions League final would suggest erring on the side of caution, which could see the talismanic striker starting on the bench. Villa is the most likely replacement, though ‘El Guaje’ hasn’t scored since 8 March – a great chance to make his time with Los Rojiblancos unforgettable.

Elsewhere, Alderweireld will come in for the suspended Godín, completing a backline with Juanfran, Miranda and Filipe, a stellar back four whichever way you look at it. Or everyone apart from Scolari, that is. Draw against Málaga and they will need just a single point at Barcelona to become champions; lose and they will have to go all out to pick up three.

In the midst of the madness, Schuster’s Málaga will be in town, an old friend who didn’t hold back with his praise for Atleti, but... His side is not mathematically safe and needs a point to avoid dancing with lady luck. He looks likely to go with three centre-backs, freeing up Eliseu and Antunes to bomb forward. Camacho, a colchonero youth team player, is likely to drop back into defence to snuff out the aerial threat of Raúl García.

In 1977 Atleti clinched the title in the second from last game as Barça slipped up… against Elche. Fate often ‘frolics’ with these things, and it is frolicking that Atleti will be hoping for in their quest to end an 18-year league drought, and celebrate, just like they did back in the day, in a bustling and joyous Calderón. If not, well, we’ll work it out tomorrow. One game at a time, and all that...

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