MADRID -- The usual suspects. Atletico Madrid stands on the cusp of glory in La Liga and the Champions League this term, but Diego Simeone's men are not quite there yet and standing in their way are two familiar foes: Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The Rojiblancos have played 59 games in the current campaign, yet history will judge them on how they do in their final fixtures against the two teams traditionally blocking their route to the very top.
To win La Liga, Atleti must travel to Camp Nou next Saturday and avoid defeat against Barca, winner of four of the last five Primera Division titles. A draw will do for Simeone's side, which has already beaten the Blaugrana once this term and gone unbeaten in its five fixtures against Gerardo Martino's men. This time, however, a title is at stake and it's the Catalans' chance to save their season. That makes them even more dangerous.
In the Champions League, meanwhile, Atleti faces city rival Real, the competition's most successful side and a team obsessed with La Decima - a 10th European Cup crown. And while Madrid can rest key players ahead of the derby date in Lisbon on May 24, The Rojiblancos will need theirs to give everything they have in their title duel at Barcelona next weekend.
|IN NUMBERS |
Atleti against Madrid & Barca
|0||Lionel Messi has failed to score in five games against Atleti in 2013-14.|
|1||The Rojiblancos have beaten Barca and Madrid once each this season. A point will do for them on Saturday.|
|2||Atleti has conceded just two goals in five games against Barca this term - both scored by Neymar.|
|4||Diego Simeone's side has won one, drawn one and lost two derbies versus Madrid in 2013-14.|
|5||In five fixtures against Barca, Atleti still hasn't lost, winning one and drawing the other four.|
Sunday could have changed that. Had Atleti beaten Malaga at home, the Rojiblancos would already be champions because Barca failed to overcome Elche in its match on Sunday evening. That would have meant one title in the bag and the opportunity to rest players ahead of the showpiece in Lisbon against Real.
But something so special was never going to be easy and Atletico's 1-1 draw with Malaga means it must keep fighting for two more huge games to end this season on an unprecedented high.
Simeone, however, preached positivity as usual. "We finish in the best way possible," he said. "A final in Barcelona and a final in Lisbon. I'm proud of Atletico Madrid."
"The two games left will change the present," he added. "But not the history of this eternal team."
History, however, doesn't remember the team that came second. So to cement this side's status in folklore following its wonderful work in 2013-14, Simeone will have to inspire his men for two more massive matches. Win them, however, and you sense the manner of victory will be even more satisfying for Atletico.
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