Barca face test away to in-form Atletico
Madrid: FC Barcelona face what could be one of their most difficult away match when they travel to play Atletico Madrid in the Vicente Calderon Stadium Sunday.
Barcelona could go into the game 13 points behind Real Madrid at the top of the Spanish Primera Liga table should Madrid win their match away to Rayo Vallecano Sunday afternoon.
That would leave Pep Guardiola`s side no option other than to win in order to keep their slim title hopes alive.
However, Atletico promise to be difficult rivals given that they are unbeaten since Diego Simeone took over as first team coach at the end of 2011. Simeone has tightened up a leaky Atletico defence and the team has upped its work-rate considerably, while the return in the side`s confidence has been clear for all to see.
Atletico will be without influential Brazilian playmaker Diego for the game after he suffered a torn thigh muscle and winger Arda Turan is also doubtful after suffering a muscle problem during Friday`s training session, Xinhua reported.
Barcelona meanwhile will be at full strength after Guardiola`s side was able to enjoy its first midweek without a competitive game since the start of the year.
Xavi Hernandez is fit again after struggling with a calf problem, while Andres Iniesta also looks to have left his fitness worries behind him and Seydou Keita too is back from the African Nations Cup.
Barcelona were back to their best as they defeated Valencia 5-1 last Sunday, but their away form has been their Achilles heel this season with all but two of the 18 points dropped by Guardiola`s side being lost on the road.
The Calderon will be packed expecting Atletico to show their continued improvement, but it is a game where Barcelona simply have to win.