Barcelona visits Atletico with both soaring after reaching the Champions League quarters

Thu, Mar 14, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

Barcelona visits Atletico with both soaring after reaching the Champions League quarters

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Boosted by their wins over Italian rivals in the Champions League, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid clash this weekend in the Spanish league.

Barcelona needs a victory to keep alive its scant hopes of defending its domestic title. With 10 rounds remaining, Xavi Hernandez's side is in third place, one point behind Girona and eight adrift of leader Real Madrid.

Atletico is in a fight to finish in the top four so it can stay in Europe's elite tournament next season. It is in fourth place, just two points ahead of a strong Athletic Bilbao, which recently beat Diego Simeone's side in the Copa del Rey semifinals.

Atletico hosts Barcelona on Sunday at its Metropolitano Stadium, flying high after its comeback over Inter Milan to reach the Champions League quarterfinals.

Inter was up 2-0 on aggregate during their second leg on Thursday until Antoine Griezmann and Memphis Depay scored to force extra time and, eventually, penalties. Jan Oblak then made two saves in the shootout to help Atletico oust last year's finalist.

Barcelona won its first knockout tie in the Champions League in four years when it beat Napoli 4-2 on aggregate after a 3-1 win on Tuesday.

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The Catalan club is undefeated in nine games since Xavi announced in late January that he will not continue next season. Since then, his team has won six and drawn three across all competitions.

But the best development for the debt-troubled Barcelona is that its training academy keeps churning out promising young players. Seventeen-year-old central defender Pau Cubarsi was named man of the match against Napoli in his European debut. Fermin Lopez, 20, scored against Napoli as he filled in for injured midfielders Pedri Gonzalez and Frenkie de Jong. Lamine Yamal, 16, was again a constant focus of its attack from the right wing.

MADRID WITHOUT BELLINGHAM

Madrid visits Osasuna on Saturday, while Girona is at Getafe.

Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham, the league top scorer with 16, will miss the trip to Pamplona as he serves the second of a two-game suspension for arguing with a referee during a draw at Valencia.

Madrid has lost only once in the league. Since that loss at Atletico in September it has gone 22 rounds without a defeat. It beat Osasuna 4-0 at home in October.

Athletic hosts Alaves, also on Saturday, hoping to get a win to add pressure on Atletico.

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