5 things to know about the Spanish league

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 28, 2014 at 12:43 pm •  Published: March 28, 2014

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spanish league leader Atletico Madrid can see the finish line, but its difficult run-in begins when it travels to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

In the most exciting season finale in years, Atletico leads Barcelona by one point and Real Madrid by three with eight games to go.

Barcelona visits Espanyol, while Madrid hosts a resurgent Rayo Vallecano looking to bounce back from its first consecutive losses in league play since 2009.

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino may rotate his starting lineup with Atletico visiting Camp Nou on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal.


ASSAULTING SAN MAMES: Atletico may be in the driver's seat but it has the toughest schedule of all the three contenders with five away matches in the eight remaining rounds. After visiting fourth-place Bilbao, it travels to Getafe, Valencia, and Levante before ending the season at Barcelona. Atletico has already won at Bilbao this season in the Copa del Rey, becoming the first visitor to emerge victorious from the new San Mames Stadium. "Recently, the newspapers have constantly been talking about there being nine, eight, seven games left, who plays who - but I don't look at that because it gets me nervous," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. "If we think about those things, we won't get anywhere. We must only think of each game as being a final. It's the only way."

DOOR OPEN FOR VALDES: Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu says the club will offer a new contract to injured goalkeeper Victor Valdes if he changes his mind and decides to stay at his boyhood club. Valdes has said he would leave when his contract expires this summer. But that was before he tore a ligament in his right knee during Wednesday's win over Celta Vigo. He is to undergo an operation on Monday that will likely sideline him for several months, ruling him out for the remainder of the season and the World Cup. "(Valdes) is going through a tough moment and the club will do all it can for him," Bartomeu said. "We have no indication that he has signed a contract with another team. We would be thrilled for him to stay."