Barcelona and Atletico to see how they measure up in Spain

MADRID (AP) Barcelona and Atletico Madrid get to test their strength in the first big match of the season in the Spanish league.

A victory at the Vicente Calderon Stadium can provide a hint about Barcelona's chances of retaining its title, or show that Atletico has what it takes to contend for another trophy.

The league's last two champions have been perfect so far this year, with two wins in two matches.

''Every player wants to be in a match like this. It's going to be an incredible atmosphere at the Calderon,'' Atletico Madrid left back Filipe Luis said. ''Barcelona is always a favorite to win every match, but we have the advantage of playing at home.''

Atletico opened its quest for its second league title in three years with a 1-0 win over newcomer Las Palmas and a convincing 3-0 victory at Sevilla, while Barcelona managed 1-0 victories at Athletic Bilbao and against Malaga.

Although Real Madrid remains Barcelona's main opponent, the rivalry against Atletico has gained increased significance following high-profile encounters the last few years, including in the Champions League and Copa del Rey. Barcelona has won four matches in a row coming into Saturday's encounter, though, including the decisive league match last season at the Calderon.

''Both teams know each other very well,'' Luis said. ''We know Barcelona will control possession of the ball and we will defend hard and try to create chances on counterattacks.''

Barcelona is expected to travel to Madrid without Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo because of a left-leg muscle injury that kept him from practicing during most of the week. Atletico coach Diego Simeone should have most of his regular starters available.

Here are some other things to watch for this weekend in the Spanish league:



Real Madrid will be in Barcelona for the third round, but playing against Espanyol instead of longtime rival Barcelona.

Madrid will be trying to win its second in a row after opening the season with a disappointing draw at Sporting Gijon, and Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to score his first goal of the season after coming close on several occasions in the first two matches.

Ronaldo has downplayed the goal drought but grew visibly frustrated after every miss in the team's 5-0 rout of Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Left back Marcelo should have high hopes of finding the net at the Cornella-El Prat Stadium, where he scored three times in his last seven matches there with Real Madrid. It's the visiting stadium where he has scored the most in his career with Madrid.

Real Madrid may have to play Saturday's match without James Rodriguez, who injured his knee while playing with Colombia. The playmaker scored twice in the victory against Real Betis two weeks ago.



In addition to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, the other teams which have won their first two matches are Celta Vigo and Basque club Eibar.

Celta will try to remain perfect when is hosts Las Palmas on Sunday, while Eibar plays at Malaga the same day.

''It has been a very good start,'' Eibar captain Mikel Arruabarrena said. ''If we keep winning we will move closer to keeping Eibar in the first division for another year. We are already six points closer to that goal.''


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