Thirteen points separate fourth-placed Atletico Madrid and league leaders FC Barcelona heading into Matchday 16 of La Liga. The next round of fixtures will see the two giants lock horns and provide Diego Simeone with a good chance to bridge the gap with the Blaugrana.
Ahead of the clash, however, Xavi Hernandez’s men have been handed a big boost. As revealed by the Barcelona manager himself in his press conference earlier today, Robert Lewandowski could be available for selection at Civitas Metropolitano later this week.
The Polish International was sent off during Barcelona’s game against Osasuna just before the World Cup and was handed a three-game suspension for allegedly mocking the referee.
However, the La Liga leaders’ appeal to the Central Contentious Court of Madrid led to his suspension being temporarily lifted until the matter was investigated.
As a result, Lewandowski played Barcelona’s 1-1 draw to Espanyol at the weekend. With the court giving to judgement yet, his exclusion against Atletico Madrid will also seemingly be withheld.
“We are confident that he can continue with the precautionary measure and play against Atlético Madrid,” Xavi said in his pre-match presser ahead of the Copa del Rey clash vs Intercity CF.
The former Bayern Munich striker is La Liga’s top scorer this season with thirteen goals in just 14 starts. He also leads the league’s G+A tally with 17.
Needless to say, his inclusion against Los Rojiblancos is a big blow to the team’s chances. After all, the Catalans have been heavily dependent on the striker for goals this season and would have a relatively blunt attack in his absence.
It remains to be seen if the court makes a decision before the end of the week, for that could turn the tide in the hosts’ favour.
Ancelotti talks Courtois, Militao, Bellingham, VAR controversies ahead of Las Palmas vs Real Madrid
Coming off a highly controversial game against Almeria, Real Madrid will now travel to Gran Canaria to take on Las Palmas tomorrow as part of the early kick-off.
Carlo Ancelotti spoke about the clash tomorrow, starting off by confirming his goalkeeper for tomorrow, “Lunin will start tomorrow.”
He also added that Madrid were looking to get back to their usual level after back-to-back poor performances, one of which included elimination against Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey round of 16.
“We are motivated to return to our best level after 2 bad games.”
The Italian gaffer also commented on the biggest football story in the world today, which was Jurgen Klopp announcing his decision to leave Liverpool at the end of the season.
“It’s quite surprising, I understand. Working for a long time with the same club and players lowers your motivation a bit. He’s doing a fantastic job at Liverpool.”
And of course, Ancelotti also spoke about the leaked VAR audiovisual, some of which are highly controversial for all parties involved. Barcelona coach and players have also commented on the same, in light of the Negreira case.
“They have talked a lot. Everyone knows what has happened in the last 20 years in Spanish football. The Civil Guard is carrying out an investigations. That is the real problem of Spanish football.”
Luckily for the manager and fans, all injured players — minus the ACL trio of David Alaba, Eder Militao, and Thibaut Courtois — are available. Jude Bellingham is suspended, however.
“Everyone is available now after the recent period of injuries.”
“Making up for Bellingham’s absence tomorrow? Brahim and Joselu are available options. They were able to show themselves after I relied on them as substitutes,” he added.
And as far as Militao and Courtois are concerned, both of whom tore their ACL early in the season, Ancelotti suggested that they could make their return before the season ends.
“Courtois and Militão both have the option to play this season. The recovery process is going very well, they are training on an individual level. It is February and these types of injuries last 6-8 months, so I think they will recover before the end of the season.”
Source: Mundo Deportivo