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Dublin: 11 °C Wednesday 16 April, 2014

Euro Vision: 3 continental games not to be missed this weekend

The winter breaks elsewhere mean we’re focusing on La Liga and Serie A where Juventus are hosting Roma.

Francesco Totti is challenged by Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo last season.
Francesco Totti is challenged by Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo last season.
Image: Massimo Pinca/AP/Press Association Images

La Liga: Malaga v Atletico Madrid & Barcelona v Elche

Saturday, 5.15pm & Sunday 2.55pm

After a short winter break, Spain’s top-flight clubs are back in action this weekend with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid jostling for position at the top of the table and a Basque derby also on the cards.

Reigning champions Barcelona and Diego Simeone’s Atletico are level on points at the top and are due to face each other in a mouthwatering fixture in Madrid next weekend.

Prior to that, though, Atletico go to Malaga on Saturday and Barcelona entertain Elche on Sunday before both sides have Copa del Rey ties to think about in midweek.

Atletico, who have signed Argentine midfielder Jose Ernesto Sosa on loan from Metalist Kharkiv until the end of the season, will face a Malaga side who won their last two league games of 2013 to climb up into mid-table.

Brazilian full-back Filipe Luis insists that the Rojiblancos are fully focused on their trip to La Rosaleda as they look to keep the pressure on Barcelona.

Knowing the coach and the squad, nobody is thinking about the Barcelona game. Maybe the supporters are, but we all know that the Malaga match is vital,” he said.

“We have not won there in two or three years and it is a difficult venue for us.”

Both Atletico and Barca have enjoyed stunning starts to the campaign, winning 15 and drawing one of 17 games in La Liga, but the Catalans have not always performed convincingly since Gerardo Martino took over as coach in the summer.

Nevertheless, the champions have been boosted by the return to the squad of goalkeeper Victor Valdes after injury, while Lionel Messi is also edging closer to a comeback.

Barca midfielder Andres Iniesta is hoping a win against Elche – who sit just two points above the drop zone – can set his team up for a successful 2014.

“A good new year for us means winning everything” said the man who scored Spain’s World Cup-winning goal in 2010.

“When you have the chance to reach the top, you have to fight hard, and that’s the kind of ambition that we hope will take us into April and May in contention. The team is playing well, and we need to grow from here.”

On TV? Sky Sports 1 & Sky Sports 3

- © AFP, 2014

Serie A: Juventus v Roma

Sunday, 7.45pm

Juventus have the chance to equal Roma’s 10-match Serie A winning record when they host the men from the capital on Sunday.

Rudi Garcia’s charges opened the season with 10 successive victories to set a new Italian top-flight record, but their opponents this weekend are threatening to surpass that achievement.

Since a 4-2 defeat at Fiorentina in October, Juventus have been unstoppable in the league, winning nine consecutive games and keeping clean sheets in all bar one – a 4-1 triumph at Atalanta last time out.

Their form has also seen them surge to the top of the table as they chase a third consecutive Serie A crown, five points clear of Roma in second.

Juve have already toppled third-placed Napoli on their run and, with the Turin outfit and Roma occupying the top two spots in the division, Francesco Totti is predicting a derby-style atmosphere to the match.

On TV? BT Sport 1

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