Barcelona will look to continue their perfect start to the season when they travel to the Wanda Metropolitano to face Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
Club football action returns with a bang in Spain on Saturday, with this weekend’s marquee clash in Madrid. Barcelona face the toughest test of their La Liga title credentials when they visit the Wanda Metropolitano to take on Atletico Madrid, looking to continue their perfect start to the season.
The hosts have already fallen six points behind the league leaders at this early stage of the season, although they are still unbeaten in La Liga thus far. Diego Simeone’s men, though, were frustrated before the international break as Leganes held them to a goalless draw in gameweek seven.
Barcelona, on the other hand, have made a perfect start to the season, with nine wins out of nine in all competitions. With seven of those results in La Liga, Ernesto Valverde & co. are the table toppers, five points clear of their nearest challengers.
The corresponding fixture last season ended in a 2-1 win for Barcelona as Lionel Messi struck a late winner to keep the then-champions’ faint title hopes alive. Ahead of their latest meeting on Saturday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Diego Simeone does not have any fresh injury concerns post the international break other than Sime Vrsaljko. But, the Croat’s hamstring injury is not a serious problem, and will only keep him out of action for this weekend in all likelihood.
Other than Vrsaljko, midfielder Augusto Fernandez (knee) remains the only other absentee. On a positive note, Filipe Luis (muscle injury) and Lucas Hernandez (hamstring) have returned to Simeone’s matchday squad after recovering from their respective injuries.
But, there is likely to be no place for Luciano Vietto in the Atletico Madrid squad this weekend as he continues to struggle for form. The key men for the hosts, meanwhile, will be Diego Godin and Antoine Griezmann, who will need to be at their best at the back and in attack respectively in order to inspire Atletico Madrid to a win on Saturday.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Oblak; Gimenez, Savic, Godin, Luis; Koke, Gabi, Saul Niguez, Carrasco; Griezmann, Correa
Unlike his counterpart, Ernesto Valverde does not have any fresh injury concerns to deal with at all following the international break. Therefore, the Barcelona boss remains without three first-team players ahead of Saturday’s match against Atletico Madrid.
The major absentee is Ousmane Dembele, who is sidelined for up to four months after undergoing surgery on a thigh injury he picked up last month. Rafinha (knee) and Arda Turan (foot) are the other two players unavailable for selection.
But, Andres Iniesta has recovered from a hamstring injury that forced him to be taken off against Las Palmas two weeks ago. The Barcelona captain is likely to be selected for the big game on Saturday, with Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic expected to accompany him in midfield.
Up front, the major dilemma that Valverde faces is the selection of the third attacker alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, with Sergi Roberto, Denis Suarez and Gerard Deulofeu in contention to take the remaining spot.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Denis Suarez, Messi, Luis Suarez
- Atletico Madrid have failed to win 14 successive games in La Liga against Barcelona, running back to 2010 (D6 L8). This is their longest run without a win against the Blaugrana in the Spanish top flight.
- Los Rojiblancos’ last league win over the visitors came in February 2010 at Vicente Calderon, which was Barcelona’s only loss in the 2009-10 campaign.
- Indeed, Diego Simeone has a poor record in all competitions against Barcelona, having managed to win just two of his 21 games as coach against the club (D7 L12).
- Only against Sevilla (23) has Lionel Messi scored more goals in La Liga than against Atletico Madrid (22).
- Antoine Griezmann will look to continue his scoring run at the Wanda Metropolitano, having found the back of the net in each of the three competitive games at the new stadium.
Player To Watch
The Manchester United transfer saga was the subject on everyone’s lips whenever Antoine Griezmann was talked about at the season’s onset. Having pledged his commitment to Los Rojiblancos though, the Frenchman hasn’t really started the campaign on a strong note.
With only three goals in the first seven games, including a sending off in the season opener against Girona, Griezmann hasn’t looked his best at times. However, with all three of his goals coming at home thus far, the player would be hoping to continue his solid home form.
If Griezmann is able to do so, he could set Atletico Madrid up for a positive result on Saturday against the high flying Barcelona. Otherwise, it could be a long night for the hosts.
Atletico Madrid 1-1 Barcelona
Having kicked off their campaign in the 2017-18 season with a bang, things start to get a little difficult for Barcelona before the next international break in November. The first challenge comes in the form of Atletico Madrid, who are always a tough nut to crack at home.
One of the most defensively astute sides in Europe, Ernesto Valverde’s men could find it tough to get past the hosts’ defensive unit on Saturday. However, with Lionel Messi in rampaging form, one wouldn’t put it past Barcelona to find the back of the net at least once.
Antoine Griezmann has shown some good form at home, and with Barcelona’s defence not exactly boasting a solid look, the hosts would fancy their chances as well. The Hard Tackle predicts a closely contested affair – an exciting 1-1 draw.