Barcelona will look to extend their winning run to four games in all competitions when they face Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday.
Barcelona have enjoyed a bright spell, of late. After a stale 0-0 draw with Slavia Praha in the UEFA Champions League, the Blaugrana have registered three back-to-back wins in all competitions. A 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in midweek was the pick of their performances as it helped them seal a place in the knockout rounds of the competition.
However, the Spanish giants will be dealt with a much trickier task when they travel to Wanda Metropolitano to face Atletico Madrid on Sunday. This would be an important fixture for the visitors, knowing a win should help them pip Real Madrid at the top of the league table.
A win for Atleti, meanwhile, could see them overtake third-placed Sevilla, who currently have 27 points. Diego Simeone’s men do boast the joint best defensive record in the league along with Athletic Bilbao. But, they have drawn way too many games, despite tasting just one defeat.
Collecting all three points against Barcelona, in that regard, should help them regain some confidence as they look to recover from a rather scratchy start to the campaign. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides ahead of their crucial match-up in Laliga this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Simeone is currently devoid of options in central defence, with Jose Gimenez and Stefan Savic both ruled out for this fixture. That means the Argentine will once again be forced to deploy Felipe and Mario Hermoso at the heart of the four-man backline.
Sime Vrsaljko is also out injured, making Kieran Trippier a guaranteed starter in right-back while the opposite end will likely be occupied by Renan Lodi due to the dearth of options in the said position.
Saul Niguez is destined to start in the wide-midfield slot despite featuring in the defeat to Juventus in midweek. The Spaniard’s tenacity and aggression could be crucial in the second line of press. Same can be said for Koke, who will be operating on the opposite flank.
The central midfield, meanwhile, could remain unchanged. Hector Herrera is likely to start ahead of Marcos Llorente while Thomas Parney is a guaranteed starter.
And finally, in attack, Simeone may want to recall star performer Joao Felix. The Portuguese sensation is set to replace Vitolo and could join Alvaro Morata in Atleti’s signature 4-4-2. His pace and trickery could cause a lot of problems for the visitors this weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Oblak; Trippier, Felipe, Hermoso, Lodi; Koke, Partey, Herrera, Niguez; Morata, Felix
Like Simeone, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde is also struggling with the absence of few of his key players. Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo are both included in the club’s long-term injury list while Ousmane Dembele faced a fresh injury blow in midweek. Moreover, Sergio Busquets has been ruled out for this fixture due to suspension after picking up too many yellow cards.
The Spaniard will likely be replaced by Frenkie de Jong, who will shift into a deeper role, thus allowing Arturo Vidal to return to the side. The Chilean could be partnered by Arthur Melo, who, in turn, is expected to replace Ivan Rakitic.
In defence, Gerard Pique is set to return after serving a suspension in the UCL fixture. He might replace Clement Lenglet, who is unlikely to be risked after recently returning from an injury layoff. That means Samuel Umtiti is set to continue in central defence.
In attack, meanwhile, Dembele’s absence makes Antoine Griezmann a guaranteed starter on the left-wing. This will be the first time the Frenchman returns to his former stomping ground. Only this time, he will be supported by the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in the final third.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Roberto, Umtiti, Pique, Firpo; Vidal, de Jong, Melo; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann
- Atletico Madrid are winless in their last 18 La Liga matches against Barcelona; only against Real Madrid have the Madrilenian side had a longer run without a win against a single opponent in the top-flight.
- Atletico Madrid last won against Barcelona in La Liga in February 2010 under Quique Sanchez Flores, with Pep Guardiola in charge of the Catalan side that day.
- Atletico Madrid have drawn seven of their opening 14 league games this season. They have never previously drawn eight of their first 15 matches in a single season in the top-flight.
- Barcelona have won three of their last four away games in the league after being winless in the previous five away from home in the competition.
- Barcelona have scored the most league goals from outside the box this season (seven) while Atleti are one of only two sides yet to score from outside the box this term.
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Griezmann made quite an impact after coming on as a substitute in the win over Borussia Dortmund. He was reportedly a hated figure among the Barcelona camp prior to his move to Catalonia in the summer. But, the Frenchman seemed to have gelled in brilliantly with his new teammates – none more so than Messi.
The duo combined incredibly well against Dortmund in midweek. Their quick interchange and the one-touch passing game were enough to bamboozle the Germans. And with Dembele unlikely to feature, the onus will once again be on Griezmann to provide the attacking support to Messi and Suarez in the final third.
But most importantly, it will be interesting to see how the forward gets treated by the Atletico fans in what will be his first return to the Wanda Metropolitano.
Atletico Madrid 0-2 Barcelona
Atletico Madrid haven’t had a good record against Barcelona, as mentioned earlier. And given their rough run of form, it won’t be surprising to see the visitors dominating the game this weekend. We expect a comprehensive 2-0 victory for the Catalans here.