Barcelona vs Atlético de Madrid: LaLiga’s title battle

A look at the intriguing storylines surrounding this Saturday’s blockbuster clash at the Camp Nou. 

This weekend’s LaLiga Santander action is an absolute can’t miss, with the top four teams in the standings face off against each other. On Saturday at 4.15pm CEST it’s Barcelona vs Atlético Madrid, before fans across the world can enjoy Real Madrid vs Sevilla on Sunday night at 9pm CEST.  

The meeting between Barça and Atleti at the Camp Nou is massive, as just two points separate Diego Simeone’s league leaders from Ronald Koeman’s Blaugrana-wearing challengers. Los Rojiblancos edged out Barcelona for a 1-0 win at the Wanda Metropolitano when these sides met earlier in the season, but a lot has changed since then.  

Barcelona’s form has improved over the second half of the season, whereas Atlético de Madrid’s results haven’t been as impressive. Both teams did earn victories from away trips to the Valencian Community last weekend, though, with Atleti overcoming Elche 1-0 and Barça defeating Valencia 3-2. The Catalan side did so with a three-at-the-back formation, the same kind of system that has brought Atlético so much success this year. When these sides met in November, though, Barcelona were still using a back four.  

There is good news for both of these teams in terms of injuries and suspensions, as there are no players banned for this match and both sides have squads that are almost completely healthy. Barcelona will still be missing the long-term-injured Philippe Coutinho and Ansu Fati, but there aren’t many concerns other than that. For fans, this is great news as it means the very best talents will be able to take to the Camp Nou pitch. 

Five Barcelona vs Atlético storylines to look out for 

Messi vs Suárez 

Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez weren’t just one of football’s greatest ever attacking partnerships during their six years together at Barcelona. They were also very close friends off the pitch. Coronavirus ruled Suárez out of this season’s first meeting between these two sides, but he’ll be able to take on his former club and his friend this time around and, given the competitor he is, he’ll be keen to prove a point. Messi and Suárez have never actually faced each other as opponents in club football, only squaring off at international level. So, this will be a fascinating battle between these two clubs’ top scorers.  

Memories of 2014 

The last time Atlético Madrid won the LaLiga Santander title was in the 2013/14 season, when a headed goal from Diego Godín earned them a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou on the final day. That was enough to win the title, but a loss would have made it Barcelona’s championship. There will still be three rounds remaining after this Saturday’s fixture, but this game will surely bring up memories of that 2014 meeting, given how much is at stake. Even though Simeone won the title at the Camp Nou that day, he has never actually won an individual match there in his managerial career and will look to change that this weekend.  

 Atlético’s Catalan curse 

It’s not just at the Camp Nou that Simeone has struggled to win. The Atleti coach has suffered several difficult visits to Catalonia in general in recent years. Los Rojiblancos haven’t won on any of their past seven visits to the region, drawing twice at Girona in that time, losing once and drawing once at Barcelona, losing once and drawing once at Espanyol and losing earlier this season to third tier side UE Cornellà in the Copa del Rey.  

Griezmann faces his former club in great form 

This is a particularly big fixture for Antoine Griezmann, as he takes on the club he was once the attacking leader of. Since switching Atleti for Barcelona in 2019, the Frenchman has faced Los Colchoneros four times but picked up only one win, alongside two defeats and a draw. He comes into this fixture in excellent form, though, with eight goals scored across his past nine matches, so look to the Frenchman to break the deadlock.  

The head-to-head factor 

Given that Real Madrid and Sevilla are right there in the title race too, only a win will do for these two sides. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that Atleti will be far happier with a draw than Barça. Not only are Simeone’s side ahead in the standings, but it will decide the all-important head-to-head record in their favour. LaLiga rules dictate that teams who finish level on points are separated by their head-to-head meetings rather than overall goal difference, so a draw would leave Atleti with the potential tiebreaker because they won the first match 1-0 back in November.  

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