Barcelona host Atletico Madrid as the race for the La Liga heats up. To say that the Catalans are going through a crisis would be an understatement. Manager Luis Enrique is under-fire and has clashed with Lionel Messi, prompting reports that he has just one more game to save his job at Barcelona. Meanwhile Atletico Madrid visit Barcelona riding on a high after their 2-0 win over arch-rivals Real Madrid and will be looking for another scalp as they get their season back on track.
On the surface, Barcelona seem to be in a decent position in their campaign. Second in the La Liga table, the Catalan giants come into the game having won 5-0 against Elche in the Copa del Rey. However, scratch beneath the surface and the skeletons come tumbling down. Reportedly, Lionel Messi is not happy at Barcelona and is looking for a big money away from Camp Nou. He has clashed with Luis Enrique, a fact that wasn’t denied by the manager, and is being closely linked with a move to Chelsea. Enrique on the other hand has been given an ultimatum and a loss against Atletico Madrid is likely to cost him his job.
Barcelona lost to Real Sociedad in their opening fixture of the year and will be keen to win against Atletico Madrid in order to get the focus away from all the negativity that is surrounding the club. Barcelona’s fortunes will depend on Messi and the Argentine will need to establish a strong partnership with Suarez and Neymar if Luis Enrique is to save his job. Atletico Madrid haven’t been defensibely organized this season, in stark contrast to their performance last year, but Messi and co will be aware that they will need something special to break down a spirited Diego Simeone.
Xavi could miss the game due to an injury which means that Rakitic will partner Busquets and Iniesta in the midfield. Pique, Mascherano, Alves and Alba are expected to start in the defence though Mathieu could make a cameo after returning from his injury.
Expected Starting Line-Up: Bravo (GK); Pique, Mascherano, Alves, Alba; Iniesta, Rakitic, Busquets; Messi, Suarez, Neymar
Atletico Madrid visit Camp Nou after beating arch-rivals Real Madrid in the first leg of the Copa del Rey tie. Camp Nou will have special memory for Atletico Madrid for it is at this very venue that they won the La Liga last season after holding off Barcelona to a 1-1 draw. The return of Fernando Torres has further galvanised the team and Diego Simeone will hope for a strong performance on Sunday in order to make sure that they do not slip up in the race to retain their La Liga crown.
Atletico Madrid’s defence has not been the force it used to be earlier and Simeone will have to make sure his players are organised in order to hold off the dangerous trio of Lionel Messi, Suarez and Neymar. Diego Godin and Miranda are expected to start alongside Juanfran and Siqueira in the defence.
Meanwhile Gabi, Koke and Tiago are likely to start in the midfield with Griezmann and Garcia starting on the wings. It will be interesting to see if Diego Simeone picks Torres ahead of Mandzukic though the manager has admitted that Torres needs more time to adapt to his team-mates.
Expected Starting Line-Up: Moya (GK); Miranda, Gabi, Juanfran, Siqueira; Gabi, Tiago, Koke, Garcia, Griezmann; Mandzukic
Player To Watch Out For
Lionel Messi is definitely the player to watch out for. At the centre of the controversy at Camp Nou, it will be interesting to see how the Argentine responds to the rumours flying around regarding his imminent departure from the La Liga. With his fractured relationship with Luis Enrique no longer a secret, it will be interesting to see how the relationship develops as Spanish champions pay Barcelona visit.
Barcelona 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Blast From The Past