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International Soccer - Spain

Barca, Atletico square off in title decider

Barcelona, Spain ( - The destination of the La Liga title will be decided on Saturday when Barcelona plays host to Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou.

Barcelona comes into the contest as a slight favorite given that it takes place on home soil, but in order to clinch the title, the Catalans must do what they have failed to do five times this season: beat Diego Simeone's men.

Saturday's monumental clash will be the sixth meeting between the two clubs this season, and Atletico surprisingly holds the edge.

The season began with a home-and-home series for the Spanish Supercup, but a draws in both matches saw Barcelona collect the silverware on away goals.

The two sides also met in the Champions League semifinals in April, an enthralling tie that saw the opening leg at Camp Nou finish level at one goal apiece before an early strike from Koke in the return match propelled Atletico to the final. They also played to a scoreless draw in La Liga play at the Vicente Calderon in January.

The Catalans can only be crowned champions with a victory in Saturday's league finale, which will be the final Barcelona bows for longtime players Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes. Earlier this year, Puyol, 36, revealed his intention to retire at season's end while Valdes announced that he will seek a move away from Camp Nou in the summer.

According to captain Xavi, a win on Saturday would be the perfect send-off for two great Barcelona servants.

"It's a great final, a fantastic match," Xavi said in a news conference this week. "It would be the icing on the cake for this generation, playing such an important match as this. Carles Puyol is an example to us all for his spirit of leadership, and sacrifice. We've been together our whole careers, he's a great person. With Valdes as well, the best goalkeeper in Barca history, people don't know him enough, and we are really missing him now. We wish them all the best. They are two great friends.

"We really believed we had no chance (to win the league), but maybe we gave up too soon. We thought we'd lost the league and these things happen in football, and now it's in our hands. It's a very important title, and we have to be together. It's an historic opportunity. It will be a great final match."

Atletico needs as little as a draw to clinch the title, which would be the club's first piece of league silverware since 1996.

Real Madrid slipped out of the title race last weekend with a 2-0 loss to Celta Vigo, leaving the Merengues with just two points from their last three league games. They will close out their league campaign against Espanyol on Saturday in their final tune-up before the Champions League final against Atletico.

Also on Saturday, Valencia will look to end a four-game winless run when it welcomes Celta Vigo to the Mestalla.

La Liga's relegation battle is in full effect as only Real Betis has been assured of a spot in the second division. Valladolid, Osasuna, Granada, Getafe and Almeria all have a chance to drop out of the top flight depending on Sunday's results.

All of Sunday's La Liga matches with relegation implications will take place simultaneously as Valladolid hosts Granada, Getafe heads to Rayo Vallecano, Osasuna faces Real Betis and Almeria welcomes Athletic Bilbao to the Estadio Mediterraneo.

Also on Sunday, Real Sociedad will square off against Villarreal at the Anoeta while Sevilla follows its Europa League triumph with a home match against Elche.

Friday's lone La Liga contest saw Francisco Portillo net the lone goal in Malaga's 1-0 defeat of Levante.

05/16 16:53:06 ET

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