- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - In the aftermath of the resignation of president Sandro Rosell, Barcelona will host Malaga on Sunday with its staff and players trying to focus on retaining their share of the Spanish league lead.

Only one point separates Barcelona and co-leader Atletico Madrid from third-place Real Madrid.

Here are five things to know about the Spanish league this weekend:

___

BARCELONA IN TURMOIL

Barcelona plays Malaga three days after president Sandro Rosell stunned the club and fans by announcing he was stepping down. Rosell intends to fight criminal accusations he misappropriated funds by hiding the cost of the transfer to sign Brazil striker Neymar behind false contracts.

It will be the first match for new president Josep Bartomeu. The former vice president took over for Rosell and plans to see out the board’s mandate until 2016.

Bartomeu tried to assure Barcelona’s fans and players that the sudden change in leadership wouldn’t affect the team.

“All our goals and objectives are the same,” Bartomeu said. “Our football team and teams in other sports will continue counting on our support and the resource needed to always aspire to the highest level of success.”

MADRID MOVING UP

With its fierce rivals immersed in an institutional crisis, Real Madrid hopes it can gain further ground by keeping up its winning streak.

Madrid has taken advantage of Barcelona and Atletico draws their last two games to slash four points off their lead in the last two rounds.

The team hosts Granada on Saturday knowing that a victory will give it the provisional lead.

Granada has proven to be one of the best away sides of the league this season, with more wins (4) than losses (3) on the road.

“The calendar gives us the opportunity to be leaders,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “After having been six points behind, that is important.”

RONALDO’S GLORY

Cristiano Ronaldo will parade his recently won Ballon d’Or in front of his fans at Santiago Bernabeu before the match against Granada.

Ronaldo broke into tears when he finally ended Lionel Messi’s four-year run of being named the world’s best player last week.

The Portugal forward will look to add to his league-leading tally of 21 goals through 20 rounds. He has scored 31 goals in 27 games in all competitions for Madrid.

Granada, however, stifled Ronaldo in their first meeting this season, when Karim Benzema’s goal earned Madrid a 1-0 victory.

“Cristiano is a superb player,” Granada coach Lucas Alcaraz said. “But since we can’t stop Real Madrid from fielding him, what I try to do is to make my players do what we think is best for us within our style of play.”

COSTA STALLED

Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa is having the best season of his career and he only trails Ronaldo by two with 19 league goals.

But the Brazilian-born forward, who has drawn serious interest from Spain coach Vicente del Bosque to take to the World Cup as a naturalized Spaniard, has yet to score since the start of 2014.

Fortunately for Diego Costa, Atletico visits his former club, Rayo Vallecano, on Sunday in a Spanish capital derby.

Rayo is in second-to-last place and has given up a league-worst 47 goals this season.

FIGHT FOR FOURTH

With the league’s big three clubs far ahead of the pack, there are a number of teams left to aspire to a fourth-place finish and the prize of a spot in next season’s Champions League.

Just past the season’s midway mark, Athletic Bilbao is in fourth place, with Villarreal, Real Sociedad and Sevilla all within six points.

Bilbao faces a tough trip to nearby Osasuna on Sunday. Villarreal travels to Valladolid on Saturday, when Sevilla hosts Levante. Sociedad hosts Elche on Monday.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide