After a long international break which seems to have lasted forever. Club football is finally returning to La Liga, and it is going to be a massive week for Barcelona. Facing Atletico Madrid at their den Wanda Metropolitano with them being in-form is going to be a very daunting task for the Catalonian side.
With two losses and so many draws so far in seven games, FC Barcelona has obviously not started the league to the expectations and sit 8th in the table. This is their worst start since the 1971/72 season. In contrast, the Los Rojiblancos have been unbeaten in the league so far. They stand 3rd on the points table having played the same number of games as Barcelona. Barça will be looking forward to this game as an opportunity to narrow the points difference between them.
Barcelona secured an impressive 5-2 win against Real Betis in their last match in the competition just before the International break. Although this was their first win in the league since the start of October. Ronald Koeman to everyone’s awe left Messi on the bench which backfired to some extent as the team was able to create plenty of chances but failed miserably to put them into the back of the net. Koeman made a change at halftime substituting the injured Ansu Fati with Leo Messi. The Messi magic worked in the second half. He scored two goals as well as assisted Griezmann with a magical dummy to seal the victory for Barcelona. There is no getting away from the fact that it has been an awful struggle for the Catalan giants this term, with the speculation surrounding Leo Messi’s future at Camp Nou far from helpful.
Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, did light work for Cadiz in La Liga before the international break. With Joao Felix, Marcos Llorente, and Luis Suarez on the scoresheet. It was an interesting scene for Joao Felix, as he scored twice and assisted for Suarez’s goal.
The Portuguese has scored doubles in three of his last four appearances, and his second season with Atletico is much more impressive than his first. Adding to that with seven goals and two assists for Atletico, he has nearly matched last season’s output already. He has also shone on the international stage by netting his first senior goals for Portugal. Another player to watch out for is Marcos Llorente, his ability to carry the ball forward makes him a huge part of Atlético Madrid’s counter-attacking style.
Sergio Busquets has been ruled out with a knee injury. Which he picked up on international duty for Spain. Thus it means that Miralem Pjanic will form a double pivot with Frenkie De Jong. He has been a regular starter and has played all games for Barcelona so far. Both have played 227 minutes together during which Barça only conceded once. Barcelona’s young prodigy, Ansu Fati, is set to miss four months of football which is a big blow for them. Barcelona’s crisis at the Center Back position is still a significant problem. With Uruguayan, Ronald Araújo still out injured. Lenglet and Piqué are set to start at the center back against Atlético. There’s some good news for Barcelona as they received a fitness boost with Coutinho making the recovery from the hamstring issue and could be involved in the game, potentially off the bench.
Luis Suarez was tested positive while being on international duty and missed the clash with Brazil. His second positive coronavirus test means he’ll miss a reunion with Lionel Messi when Atletico Madrid face Barcelona. Atlético Madrid midfielder, Lucas Torreira, is also sidelined with COVID-19. While Stefano Savic, Hector Herrera, and Sime Vrsaljko will all miss out due to injuries.
Stats and Facts
- Leo Messi has scored 12 goals in 17 La Liga games against Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone, more than any other player, whilst he is also the player to have scored the most La Liga goals against Jan Oblak (8 goals in 11 games)
- Marcos Llorente has both scored and assisted in the same game for the 4th time in all competitions since the start of 2020; only Lionel Messi (5) has done so on more occasions among LaLiga players in that time.
- Barça has a special streak going on against Atlético Madrid. The Blaugrana are twenty consecutive La Liga games without losing to them, with a balance of fourteen wins and six draws. They have not lost at the Rojiblancos’ stadium since the 2009/10 season.
- Atlético Madrid has not lost a single game at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium since the game against Barcelona in December 2019.
- Atletico Madrid is unbeaten in their last 23 La Liga games (W14 D9), their longest ever run without defeat in the competition.
- Antoine Griezmann has scored against 32 of the 33 teams he has faced in La Liga, failing only against his former club Atletico Madrid. He has played 10 games against Atleti, 2 of them with Barça failing to score in all of them.
Both squads are affected by injuries and absences, especially the hosts.
As mentioned above Simeone cannot count on the likes of Lucas Torreira, Šime Vrsaljko nor on Luis Suárez who’s tested positive for COVID-19.
Atletico Madrid will likely be deploying a 4-4-2 formation on paper. Jan Oblak received a knock during his international duties but should be back to man the sticks. In front of him, a quartet of Renan Lodi or Stefano Savic (if fit), Mario Hermoso, José Giménez, and Kieran Trippier could start. In the midfield line, we expect to see Saúl Ñíguez, Koke, Geoffrey Kondogbia getting his first start and Marcos Llorente out wide. Finally, Angel Correa and the star of the team, João Félix in the forward line.
Barcelona will assume a 4-2-1-3 system for the night. Ronald Koeman is facing selection issues due to serious injuries to Ansu Fati and Busquets as mentioned above. However, Philippe Coutinho has been given a medical green light just in time to participate and the rest of the squad is mostly fit.
Marc-André Ter Stegen will surely start in goal. Jordi Alba, Clément Lenglet, Gerard Piqué, and Sergi Roberto complete the defense. In midfield, Frenkie de Jong is likely to be partnered by Miralem Pjanić forming a double pivot. Koeman could deploy Lionel Messi just in front of them in that no.10 role. Despite Coutinho potentially returning to full fitness, Pedri seems like the safer option at the moment on the left side. On the right, Ousmane Dembélé might get a start in a huge clash. Antoine Griezmann will face his former time from the sole striker position.
Though it is just Matchday 10 and there’s a lot of football to be played in this year’s La Liga, the points table looks a bit worrying for FC Barcelona. It is indeed going to be a very tough match for the Blaugrana as Atlético Madrid seems to be on top form and will be looking to stretch their unbeaten run in the league. Mind well that Barcelona has won just one game in their last 5 La Liga games (1W 2D 2L).
As we all are aware, Leo Messi turns into prime Shawn Michaels whenever he plays Atletico, and as good as the Rojiblancos have been this season, the faith for all Culers lies in The Heartbreak Kid – Leo Messi. On the other hand, Felix is in a sublime form and has certainly proved to be worth the 120 million Golden Boy for Atleti. So will the Golden Boy Felix flex against Barca or as usual Messi mess with Atletico?
The two teams played out a 2-2 draw when they last locked horns in July 2020 at the Camp Nou. Despite having a whopping 72% possession in that match. Barca, unfortunately, failed to protect their lead twice. Both sides will be without some key players for this match, but there will be plenty of on-field action with Leo Messi and Joao Felix being the most decisive factors for Barcelona and Atleti respectively. It will undoubtedly be a riveting fixture, pitting two Spanish Giants against each other.