Atletico Madrid enjoying Spanish spotlight

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photo: AP
photo: AP

For once, the spotlight in Spain is not only shining on Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Atletico Madrid are top of La Liga for the first time since they pulled off a memorable league and cup double in 1996 – and they intend to stay there.

They share the lead with Barca on points and goal difference, having won their first four matches handsomely.

Atletico have also made a good start in the Champions League, beating Zenit St Petersburg 3-1 Wednesday.

Coach Diego Simeone (picture) – the man who has transformed Atletico in his 20-month reign – said his players should now start to think about Saturday’s trip to Valladolid.

“Tonight things went very well for us, we have become a very competitive team ... But now we have to focus on Saturday’s game,” he said after the Champions League game.

Brazilian striker Diego Costa will be raring to go on Saturday after missing the Zenit match through suspension.

Barcelona, meanwhile, visit lowly Rayo Vallecano – with or without coach Gerardo Martino, who flew back to his native Argentina for the funeral of his father after Wednesday’s 4-0 caning of Ajax Amsterdam. Barca will again be without left-back Jordi Alba, though veteran captain Carles Puyol might finally be ready to return after a six-month lay-off.

Also on Saturday, Almeria take on Levante and Real Sociedad receive Malaga.

Real Madrid should have few problems on Sunday at home to struggling Getafe.DPA



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