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Key match on Sunday as Atletico Madrid faces FC Barcelona

Atletico Madrid players training Photo: @atletienglish

Madrid, Spain | Xinhua | Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona play a vital match in La Liga on Sunday night.

The game offers Atletico the chance to strengthen their position in the top four in a close race to qualify for next season’s Champions League, while Barcelona travels to the Metropolitano Stadium with doubts about their form.

A point from Real Madrid in Villarreal on Saturday would put Carlo Ancelotti’s men top of the table as both they and Barcelona prepare to fly to Saudi Arabia to play the Spanish Supercup.

Barcelona goes into the match after a poor return to form after the World Cup break, drawing 1-1 at home to Espanyol and needing extra time to progress past third-tier CF Intercity in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday night.

The good news on Wednesday was that Ronald Araujo was able to play for an hour after over two months out with a muscle injury, and he will be needed on Sunday as neither Marcos Alonso nor Eric Garcia convinced in central defense.

Jordi Alba is suspended after his two quickfire yellow cards last weekend and Alex Balde will step in at left back. While Balde is a natural replacement for Alba, there is no replacement for striker Robert Lewandowski, who will serve the first game of the three-match ban he was given before the World Cup.

Ansu Fati’s winning goal on Wednesday puts him in pole position to start, especially after both Memphis Depay and Ferran Torres disappointed in midweek, but Ansu still doesn’t look to be the player he was before undergoing four operations for a bad knee injury.

Elsewhere, Frenkie de Jong will start in midfield after resting in midweek, while Sergi Roberto will play at right back.

Atletico cruised past Oviedo in the Copa del Rey, with Antoine Griezmann continuing his excellent form from the World Cup in a deeper role.

The big question for Atletico coach Diego Simeone is what to do with Joao Felix, as the Portuguese star only shows his talent in fits and starts. A move to England is rumored, but leaving the forward on the bench is not the best way to tempt possible buyers to meet Atletico’s asking price.

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