Barca faces Atletico in crunch clash

Updated 14 December 2012
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Barca faces Atletico in crunch clash

MADRID: With Real Madrid trailing by 11 points, Barcelona’s closest threat is from Atletico Madrid who they face tomorrow and midfielder Xavi Hernandez feels it is an opportunity to dent their title aspirations.
Barca have made a record start to the season with a remarkable 14 wins from 15 games and while the reigning champions and traditional rivals Real Madrid have not been able to live with the pace it has been their neighbors Atletico who have made an impressive start to the campaign and trail the Catalans by seven points.
“It is too early to really say who are going to be the biggest rival and at the moment it looks as though both will be strong rivals,” said Xavi.
“Atletico are very strong. People said that they were going to slip-up but they haven’t very much and now this weekend we have our chance to make them slip-up.
“They are on a good run, they play very well on the counter-attack and they have a striker (Radamel) Falcao who motivates them all. Their trainer (Diego) Simeone has worked very well with the team and they have a strong defensive system.
“At the same time, though, while Atletico are the nearest rivals at the moment Madrid are not out of the running by any stretch of the imagination and they are playing well.”
Falcao hit five goals last weekend as Atletico demolished Deportivo La Coruna 6-0 and he now has 16 league goals.
Real Madrid meanwhile continue to stutter with Mesut Ozil coming to the rescue with a brace as they beat Valladolid 3-2 and then in midweek they lost 2-1 away in the first leg of a King’s Cup game with Celta Vigo.
It means they have lost six times so far which is one more than the whole of last season and the same number as in Jose Mourinho’s first campaign at the club.
They now take on Espanyol who are joint bottom with Deportivo La Coruna on eleven points and while new coach Javier Aguirre has been working on making them more solid at the back it should be a relatively easy game.
Fourth-placed Malaga faces a tricky Andalusian derby away to Sevilla who are languishing in mid-table due to a lack of consistency but they are generally tough side to face at home.
Level with Malaga on points are Real Betis who are one of the revelations so far and caused plenty of problems in the second half for Barcelona last weekend although losing 2-1. They take on Celta Vigo.
Fixtures (All GMT)
Saturday: Getafe v Osasuna (1500), Mallorca v Athletic Bilbao (1700), Granada v Real Sociedad (1900), Sevilla v Malaga (2100)
Sunday: Zaragoza v Levante (1100), Valencia v Rayo Vallecano (1600), Real Madrid v Espanyol (1800), Barcelona v Atletico Madrid (2000).
Monday: Deportivo La Coruna v Valladolid (1900), Celta Vigo v Real Betis (2030).


Saudi Arabia's Al-Wehda FC have FIFA suspension lifted

Updated 7 min 13 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia's Al-Wehda FC have FIFA suspension lifted

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia’s Football Federation chief Adel bin Mohammed Ezzat has thanked the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Sports Authority Turki bin Abdulmohsen Al-Sheikh for his support for Al-Wehda Football Club and his contribution to lifting a ban imposed by FIFA.
The ban on the club from football’s governing body was imposed because the management did not pay a sum of money that was due to Uruguayan footballer Adolfo Lima during the 2016-2017 season.
Ezzat stressed that this support from Al-Sheikh is an extension of the support from the Saudi football federation to all clubs.
Al-Wehda have won promotion back to the Saudi Pro League after finishing as champions of this season’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman league, Saudi Arabia’s second tier of professional football.