sport

La Liga weekend preview

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has urged his team to put aside all thoughts of the Champions League final as they look to move a step closer to securing the Primera Division title this weekend.

Los Rojiblancos joined city rivals Real Madrid in booking their place in the May 24 Lisbon showpiece with a brilliant 3-1 triumph in the second leg of their semi-final at Chelsea on Wednesday.

They head into the weekend four points ahead of Barcelona with three games left - and six clear of Real, who have played 34 matches - and Simeone wasted no time in turning his attention to domestic matters after his team's midweek heroics in London.

"We had to work hard to find the match we wanted, and that was after the second goal," he said on club website www.clubatleticodemadrid.com ahead of Sunday's trip to the Estadio Ciudad de Valencia.

"The consequence was a big collective effort and having everyone chasing after the same objective, which was to get the team to the final.

"(On Thursday) we start preparing for the match against Levante, and nothing must distract us from keeping our focus on Levante."

Barca can move within a point of Simeone's men with victory at Getafe on Saturday afternoon.

A successful title defence for the Catalan club would ease the pressure on coach Gerardo Martino, whose future has been the subject of speculation for some time despite insistences he will see out the two-year deal he signed last summer.

"It has been a year of gaining knowledge in European football," the Argentinian said at his pre-match press conference.

"I've learned to handle myself when I receive criticism and praise. Everywhere you learn, but there is a lot to learn here and you have to do it fast."

Asked whether talks had taken place with the club about next season, he replied: "I am just focusing on the remaining games, which will be decisive to see if we still can win La Liga. I have not heard anything from the club."

Real, who advanced to the Champions League final with a stunning 4-0 second-leg success at Bayern Munich on Tuesday, take on eighth-placed Valencia on Sunday evening.

The only negative from the trip to Munich was a yellow card for Xabi Alonso which rules the midfielder out of the final, but he remained upbeat.

"Beating this Bayern in both matches deserves a lot of credit with the way they've been playing this season," Alonso said on www.realmadrid.com.

"We were able to control the game perfectly. We didn't give away any chances and it was a perfect match."

Los Che head to the Bernabeu looking to bounce back from their dramatic Europa League exit on Thursday night.

Juan Antonio Pizzi had led Sevilla 3-0 in the second leg and looked on course to overturn their 2-0 first-leg deficit, but Stephane Mbia headed home a decisive stoppage-time away goal to send the visitors through to the final.

"I am proud of the players, the fans and everyone representing the club," Pizzi said at his post-match press conference.

"We all have to evaluate this and learnand try to be better every day. But I have told the players I am proud of them. We deserved to reach the final and did enough to get there."

Sevilla coach Unai Emery felt his side earned their final berth, though.

"There is no team that has given so much enthusiasm for this competition," he said ahead of their game against Villarreal at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday.

"Sevilla have relished this competition from the beginning, since facing Estoril in front of 4,000 fans."

The weekend's action kicks off on Friday night, when victory at Rayo Vallecano would guarantee Athletic Bilbao a fourth-place finish and the precious final Champions League qualifying spot.

In other games on Saturday, second-bottom Real Valladolid face Espanyol, while fellow strugglers Elche visit Malaga and Osasuna take on Celta Vigo.

Eighteenth-placed Almeria play already relegated Real Betison Sunday, and sixth-spotted Real Sociedad meet Granada on Monday night.