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May 13, 2014

Pique, Neymar could return for finale

Ahead of their winner-takes-all clash with Atletico Madrid, Barcelona's Andres Iniesta claimed that his team would be deserving La Liga champions.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique is back in training ahead of Saturday's La Liga title decider against Atletico Madrid, while forward Neymar also has an outside chance of making the game at the Camp Nou.

Barca's title hopes could be boosted by the returns of Pique and Neymar.
Barca's title hopes could be boosted by the returns of Pique and Neymar.

Ledwith: Title showdown

Pique has been sidelined since cracking a hip in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal against Atletico on April 1, while Neymar -- the only Barca player to score in five meetings with Los Colchoneros so far this season -- has been out since bruising a foot in the Copa del Rey final defeat to Real Madrid on April 16.

Both players have stepped up their recoveries in recent days -- as has also currently injured left-back Jordi Alba -- with the latest details included in a club statement released after training on Monday.

"After the draw against Elche, Barca were back in training this morning at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper as they began preparations for Saturday's title showdown with Atletico Madrid," the statement said. "Of the team's injured players, Gerard Pique began training on the pitch, though still apart from the rest of the group whilst Neymar and Jordi Alba did specific recovery work. Lucas and Bagnack, from Barca B and Roger Riera from the Youth A team also took part in this morning's session."

However, Blaugrana goalkeeper Victor Valdes will not be at the Camp Nou on Saturday, having reportedly already said goodbye to his teammates before leaving for Germany to undergo the next stage of his recovery from his serious knee injury.

The news, which appears to put an end to any thoughts that Valdes might reconsider his decision to leave the Catalan outfit when his contract ends this summer, came in another official club statement released Monday.

"Victor Valdes has completed the first phase of his recovery from his knee injury, according to the club's medical services," the statement said. "Starting today, the keeper will continue his recovery in Augsburg, Germany, under the supervision of Dr. Ulrich Boenisch's medical team. It's worth noting that Valdes sustained a ligament tear in his right knee in the match against Celta at the Camp Nou. The keeper has missed 11 matches since his injury, which occurred on March 26."

Meanwhile reports suggest Atletico's 36-goal top scorer Diego Costa, who missed last weekend's 1-1 draw with Malaga due to a hamstring problem, is willing to risk further issues in order to start on Saturday, even with May 24's Champions League final, the World Cup and his anticipated summer move to Chelsea looming.

Costa's club's president Enrique Cerezo told SER Catalunya that he was not worried about his side's recent slips against Levante and Malaga as they preferred to play against the biggest teams.

"It will be easier to play against Barcelona than against Malaga, as much for us as for them," Cerezo said. "Barcelona have slipped up, and we have slipped up. Now it is time to settle the accounts in one game. The chances for both are now 50/50."

The veteran film producer says it reminds him of a particular 1953 French-Italian thriller film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot.

"This Liga is like the film 'The Wages of Fear', in which a train was carrying nitroglycerine and could get thrown into the air at any moment," Cerezo said.

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