Atletico Madrid will be hoping to heap further misery on a beleaguered Barcelona side when the two giants clash in Matchweek 8 of the 2021/22 La Liga this weekend.

Matchweek 8 of the 2021/22 La Liga will kick off this Saturday and all eyes will be on Wanda Metropolitano as reigning champions Atletico Madrid play hosts arch-rivals Barcelona, who are in a state of turmoil.

Indeed, Barcelona head into Saturday’s clash having win just one of their last five matches in all competitions – a 3-0 win over Levante last weekend which seems like an anomaly given their performances in the rest of the matches. Indeed, the Catalans were handed a 3-0 drubbing by SL Benfica in the UEFA Champions League earlier in the week, which has left manager Ronald Koeman on the brink.

Indeed, speculations are rife that the Dutchman, who is banned from the touchline for Saturday’s clash, could very well be on his way out during the international break with replacements already being lined up. And, it will certainly be interesting to see if a win over the champions could earn him a stay of execution.

Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid haven’t exactly made the best of starts to the defence of their La Liga crown and are currently fourth in the table, having lost 1-0 to Alaves in their last league encounter. They did bounce back strongly with a 2-1 win over AC Milan in the Champions League earlier this week, which should give them confidence heading into this blockbuster clash as they look to pile on the misery on Barcelona.

The corresponding fixture last season ended in a 1-0 win for Diego Simeone’s men with Yannick Carrasco’s first-half strike enough to condemn Barcelona to a defeat. Ahead of their latest encounter at the Wanda Metropolitano, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Atletico Madrid

New signing Matheus Cunha has been ruled out of the contest with a thigh injury, but there are some positives as Koke returned from injury in midweek while Joao Felix is available after serving out his suspension. Kieran Trippier is also expected to be fit and available after picking up a slight knock against AC Milan.

Diego Simeone should set his team up with a three-man defensive line comprising Stefan Savic, Jose Maria Gimenez and Mario Hermoso to guard Jan Oblak in the Atletico Madrid goal. Trippier should take his position as the right-sided wing-back while Yannick Carrasco will slot in on the left and provide a constant outlet for the Colchoneros going forward.

Captain Koke will be in charge of keeping things tight and in control in the middle of the park, with support likely to come from Marcos Llorente, who will also have the licence to make forward runs and add up numbers in the final third during the attacking phases. New signing Rodrigo De Paul would also be an option, but Llorente provides a bit more in the defensive sense.

Former Barcelona ace Antoine Griezmann ought to feature in attack, playing off of another ex-Barca superstar, Luis Suarez. While Felix and Thomas Lemar are also in contention, Angel Correa could occupy the remaining spot in attack for Los Rojiblancos on Saturday night.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Oblak; Savic, Gimenez, Hermoso; Trippier, Llorente, Koke, Carrasco; Correa, Griezmann; Suarez

Barcelona

Barcelona have been treated with mixed news on the injury front heading into this game as Jordi Alba is back in contention after recovering from his issue but midfield prodigy Pedri has been ruled out. The likes of Sergio Aguero, Ousmane Dembele, Martin Braithwaite and Alejandro Balde remain unavailable as well.

Having gone in with a three-man backline against Benfica, Ronald Koeman is expected to switch to a 4-3-3 formation on Saturday with Marc-Andre ter Stegen lining up between the sticks. With Alba returning, he should walk right back into the starting XI, slotting in at left-back while Sergino Dest should move to his natural right-back position.

Eric Garcia, who was poor in midweek and got sent off, should drop out of the starting XI. Gerard Pique, who was subbed off early against Benfica, should start alongside Ronald Araujo, who has been one of the very few positives for Barcelona in the ongoing campaign.

With Pedri ruled out, academy product Gavi is expected to step into the starting XI in the middle of the park, partnering Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong. The Dutchman will be key to the Catalans’ hopes of picking up a win with his driving forward runs and his ability to play defence-splitting passes.

Given how poor Luuk de Jong has been in recent games, Koeman might be forced to pull the Dutchman out of the lineup. Instead, Ansu Fati, who has gotten some minutes under his belt over the past couple of games, should start on Saturday, slotting in on the left, with Memphis Depay moving into a central role. Young Yusuf Demir could be in for another chance to make an impact.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Pique, Alba; de Jong, Busquets, Gavi; Demir, Depay, Fati

Key Stats

  • Atletico Madrid have not lost any of their last three meetings with Barcelona in La Liga (W1 D2).
  • Barcelona are unbeaten in their six matches in La Liga this season (W3 D3) – they had only managed to remain unbeaten after the first six games of a campaign in 2017/18.
  • Atletico Madrid have won just one of their last 11 home matches against Barcelona in La Liga (D3 L7).
  • Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has not won any of his two managerial games against Diego Simeone in La Liga (D1 L1).
  • Luis Suarez has scored against 30 of the 31 opponents he has faced in La Liga (171 goals in total), failing only against Barcelona.

Player to Watch

Memphis Depay

After a fine performance in the win over Levante, Depay was once again Barcelona’s lone bright spot in attack in a hapless display against Benfica. The 27-year-old has produced a tally of three goals and an assist in six La Liga appearances this season and will once again be required to step up when the Catalans visit the home of the champions on Saturday night.

How he fares against a rigid Atletico defence could hold the key for Barcelona in this outing. With Ansu Fati potentially in line for a start, the Dutchman could be in for better support than he has usually had at his new club as well, which could further help him pose a major threat to Atletico Madrid.

Prediction

Atletico Madrid 2-1 Barcelona

Barcelona’s morale and confidence are likely to be at an all-time low after the events of midweek. The backline looks disorganised and nervy, going forward they just do not seem to have the quality to trouble oppositions, as has been witnessed in recent games, apart from the one against Levante.

Atletico Madrid, too, have not been in the best of form, but the comeback win over Milan will have lifted the spirits up. And with Luis Suarez seemingly fired up to prove a point to Ronald Koeman and his former club, he could prove to be the protagonist, leading Atleti to a win, which should all but seal Koeman’s fate.

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