Atletico need balls of steel

MADRID - The Spanish La Liga is set for one of its most thrilling finishes when Barcelona host log leaders Atletico Madrid in a winner-takes-all showdown at the Nou Camp on the final day of the campaign tomorrow.

Only twice in the history of Spain's top-flight has the title been decided with a direct head-to-head clash on the last day. And when the calendar was set last year, few would have expected Atletico to be competing with wealthier rivals FC Barça for the championship at this stage.

Real Madrid, the world's richest club by income ahead of FC Barça, were in contention until last weekend when they were beaten at Celta Vigo, but it is the capital's second club who have about a quarter of the resources of the big two, who are close to pulling off a remarkable achievement.

Atletico have not been in contention in La Liga since they last won in 1996, but are now in with a chance of claiming an historic La Liga and European double.

Whatever the outcome of tomorrow's game, thoughts will immediately turn to the following week's Champions League final against Real in Lisbon, Portugal, when Atletico will be looking to win their first continental crown and deny their glamorous neighbours a record-extending 10th title.

"We have an historic chance to win two titles and we are proud because we have won over a lot of people with our passion and excitement," Atletico captain Gabi said on Wednesday.


Malaga vs Levante (9pm)


Real Madrid vs Espanyol (4pm), Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid (6pm), Valencia vs Celta Vigo (10pm)


Real Sociedad vs Villarreal (noon), Almeria vs Athletic Club, Osasuna vs Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano vs Getafe, Real Valladolid vs Granada (all 6pm), and Sevilla vs Elche (9pm).

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