Barcelona head coach Pep Guardiola believes Atletico Madrid have the potential to challenge for the La Liga title this season.
Perennial favourites Barcelona and Real Madrid have both made stuttering start to the 2011/12 campaign, with newly promoted Real Betis stealing the limelight to sit top of the league after four matches.
Barca sit one point ahead of Atletico in fourth ahead of their match on Saturday, with Guardiola insisting the capital club can be genuine contenders.
“Clearly I see them as a rival of ours I couldn’t say anything to the contrary but it depends on them and it depends on us too,” Guardiola said.
“I always think why not Valencia, why not Atletico Madrid, why not Sevilla for the title?”
“They compete at the highest level have good players, coaches who prepare well. In the end it’s down to them.”
“At the end of the season each one of us will end up in their right place and then we’ll see. But sure for the history of Atletico Madrid for the players they have yeah why not?”
Guardiola also welcomed back central defender Gerard Pique, who returns on Saturday after a month out through injury.
“It’s great news that Gerard is now clear to play. He’s now been out for a month, well injured for more than a month, but been out of action for much longer,” he said.
“He’s a player of the highest level but we all know that, and so it’s great news for us that he is now back and we that we can use him again.”
“But we have lived through this time without him and we have done well. Last season we were without Carles (Puyol) for long periods and again we survived. But this is good news.”