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Atletico changes focus to Spanish title race

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 24, 2014 at 7:12 am •  Published: April 24, 2014
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MADRID (AP) — Atletico Madrid's attention will return to domestic affairs, as it looks to defend its lead at the top of La Liga, with the club closing in on its first league title in 18 years.

Atletico has a tough trip to Valencia on Sunday, three days before it plays the return leg of its Champions League semifinal at Chelsea. Before it can focus on securing a place in the May 24 final in Lisbon, the league leader must maintain its slim advantage over Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Madrid, which has a game in hand on the leader, faces Osasuna on Saturday while Barcelona looks to stay focused on winning the only trophy up for grabs when it travels to Villarreal a day later.

With four games to play, Atletico leads with 85 points, Barcelona has 81 points, and Madrid has 79 points. Atletico will secure the title by winning three of its final four matches.

Here are five things to know about La Liga this weekend:

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COURTOIS' CHELSEA EFFECT

Atletico Madrid's scoreless draw against Chelsea opened up further discussion about the future of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

The Belgium international is on-loan from Chelsea, which lost regular Petr Cech to injury during Tuesday's match. Cech's absence means 41-year-old backup Mark Schwarzer is Chelsea's No. 1 'keeper for the rest of the season, a situation manager Jose Mourinho likely pondered while watching Courtois on Tuesday.

Courtois has been one of the pillars to Atletico's success and the club is hopeful of extending the loan-deal for a fourth season.

"It's better not to think about it and to focus on just playing," said Courtois, who is on course for winning the league's Zamora trophy for the goalkeeper who concedes the fewest goals in a season.

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GOOD NEWS FOR BARCA

Barcelona finally received some good news this week when FIFA temporarily lifted a transfer ban, so the club can complete a reported deal with goalkeeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen.

With the club on the verge of improving Lionel Messi's current deal, talk has already begun over which players will exit this summer.

The Catalan club — on the verge of its first trophyless season since 2007 — needs to bolster its defense, and Dani Alves' future is a big uncertainty with the Brazil international out of contract this summer.

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