The Runner Sports

Atletico Madrid vs. Barcelona: La Liga Match Preview


Fight for First Place


Although Los Rojiblancos and Los Blaugrana are tied in La Liga with 48 points, their confidence coming into Saturday’s match will be in opposite spectrums.

Barcelona suffered a first-half scare in their match against Athletic Club at midweek, but bounced back with a deserved 5-2 aggregate win to move on to the semi-finals in the Copa Del Rey. Atleti, however, didn’t share the same fate. Simeone’s men were beaten at home in their Copa clash at the hands of Celta Vigo, with the visitors hitting the back of the net three times and the hosts losing on aggregate, 3-2.

The last time both teams faced each other, the Catalan giants got the better of their opponents at the Vicente Calderon, beating them 2-1 back in September. Their previous four meetings have all gone Barcelona’s way.

La Liga fans will be glued to their television sets, as the game is being billed as the best offense versus the best defense, and with Real Madrid sitting in third, this game could be labeled as a modern Clasico, due to their previous fixtures being exciting displays. 

Read further as The Runner Sports looks to identify each team’s recent form, their key players, their probable starting XIs and more.


Atletico Madrid 


Latest Run of Form Through All Competitions – W-W-D-D-L (Furthest right being most recent.)

If Atleti’s bread and butter is their ability to keep clean sheets, then Wednesday’s loss is a cause for concern. The team hasn’t conceded more than two goals all season until Celta Vigo did just that at midweek.

Diego Simeone will be looking for his team to bounce back from a game where mistakes with the ball and poor set-piece defending, contributed to their abrupt exit from the Copa Del Rey. On the flip side, his team has only conceded eight goals in 21 La Liga matches this campaign.

Defensive prowess aside, Los Rojiblancos have struggled to consistently find scoring from someone other than Antoine Griezmann. The France national has scored 12 times and leads his team with goals, however, at second is Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco with just three.

Atletico Madrid Possible XI – Oblak; Juanfran, Gimenez, Godin, Luis; Saul, Gabi, Fernandez, Koke; Vietto, Griezmann

Key Players – 

  • Diego Godin – The Uruguayan has been rock-solid aside from the slip up earlier in the week, and he’ll be looking to bounce back against the Barca. Godin will need to anchor his backline to try to stop the three-headed monster that is ‘MSN.’ Squawka.com has the center-back ranked as the best defender in Spain.

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  •  –  Antoine Griezmann – Atleti’s go-to striker will need to pull off a spectacular performance if he is to get his side over the Catalan giants. He scored in the Celta game, but didn’t look good in his link-up play with his midfield. The Frenchmen is 10th in the league in scoring, but sometimes gets criticized for his lack of goals in important games. His side will need him to prove the doubters wrong.

Barcelona


Latest Run of Form Through All Competitions – W-W-W-W-W

Luis Enrique’s men are unbeaten in 25 games, but that doesn’t mean they’re firing on all cylinders as of late. The past 3 or 4 games have seen them start games in a sluggish manner.

Their first-half against Athletic Club resulted in them having to come back from a 1-0 deficit and the Malaga game before that saw Barca stifled by their opposition’s meticulous pressing.

With Neymar confirmed to be fit to play by Enrique, the trio of ‘MSN’ will be in full-force. The Catalans are second in the league in scoring with 52 goals, and will be looking to add to that tally mark at home.

Barcelona Possible XI –  Bravo; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Turan, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Key Players – 

  • ‘MSN’ – When facing a squad as deep with world-class talent as Barca, there’s no way to specifically point to one of the three. To beat this team you have to find a way to neutralize them all. The South Americans have scored 45 goals between them this season.
  • Arda Turan – The midfielder left Atletico this past summer and could very well play his former team. Interesting to see how he performs and how his former teammates try to compete against him.