Five duels to follow in Atlético Madrid vs FC Barcelona

This weekend’s LaLiga Santander match between the Colchoneros and Culés will bring up some spectacular collective and individual clashes.

There is a blockbuster fixture in LaLiga Santander this weekend as Atlético Madrid take on FC Barcelona, a match that should produce some thrilling football as two strong teams do battle and as some of the best individuals in their positions go face to face. There are several interesting duels worth keeping an eye on and they are detailed below.

The goalkeepers: Jan Oblak vs Marc-André ter Stegen

Atlético and FC Barcelona boast two of the best goalkeepers in world football in Jan Oblak and Marc-André ter Stegen. The latter hasn’t yet been able to win the Zamora Trophy, given out each season to the goalkeeper with the best goals conceded record in LaLiga Santander, and there’s one main reason for that, which is that Oblak has been in the way. The Slovenian has claimed this prize five times, most recently in 2020/21 as he helped Atleti win the title. This season, Oblak also leads the Zamora Trophy standings after the first few matchdays, having let in just six goals across seven matches so far. Ter Stegen, meanwhile, has only just returned from an injury, having required surgery on his right knee at the end of May and having missed the start of the season, only returning at the end of August. Yet, it hasn’t taken long for the German to once again show why he is one of the best around. From his four league appearances so far this campaign, Ter Stegen has managed to keep two clean sheets already.

The defence: José María Giménez vs Gerard Piqué

In defence, Atlético and FC Barcelona can sometimes be like day and night. On one hand, the Colchoneros have produced one of the most solid defensive lines in LaLiga Santander over the past several years, while FC Barcelona have a philosophy of attacking no matter what and leaving some space behind. Two of the players leading those back lines are José María Giménez and Gerard Piqué. With Giménez, he is one of the best centre-backs in the competition. There may be others who score more goals, who play with a more elegant style or who can bring the ball out better, as may be the case with the Catalan, but few are as rock solid as the Uruguayan.

The midfield: Koke and Marcos Llorente vs Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets

The midfield battle could be more decisive than ever and FC Barcelona will have to be careful. Despite Barça’s tradition of dominating in the middle, this is also one of Atleti’s best positions as they have Koke and Marcos Llorente who can control matches. They complement each other perfectly, combining control with physicality and energy. FC Barcelona have a similarly strong duo in the form of Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets, with the Dutchman one of the most talented modern stars of the competition and with the Spain international one of the most experienced. This clash in the centre promises to be a special one.

The attack: Luis Suárez vs Memphis Depay

Luis Suárez was one of Atlético’s best players as they won the LaLiga Santander title last season, his first as a Rojiblanco after having moved from FC Barcelona. He quickly scored a brace in 20 minutes on his Atleti debut and finished the season by scoring two of the vital four goals over the final two matchdays, for the victories that delivered the championship. The Uruguayan meant business from the start and remains a permanent threat in attack. In this weekend’s match, Suárez and co. will be looking to outscore the Barça attack centred around the talents of summer signing Memphis Depay. Already, the Dutch forward has been one of the stars of the 2021/22 LaLiga Santander season as he has scored three goals and provided one assist over his first six appearances. More than the numbers, he has carried the attacking responsibility on his shoulders.

The dugout: Diego Simeone vs Ronald Koeman

Diego Simeone is the LaLiga Santander coach who has been in his current position the longest and he’ll go up against one of the more recent hires in Spain’s top flight, Ronald Koeman. These two tacticians represent the values of their clubs so well, although there might not be as much of a clash of styles as in previous meetings between these sides. Above all, Simeone demands intensity and balance from his squad, which is now so deep in the forward positions with João Félix, Antoine Griezmann, Ángel Correa, Luis Suárez, Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Lemar and Matheus Cunha. FC Barcelona have always been known for playing attacking football, while they are also looking for intensity and balance under Koeman, who is backing La Masia talent like few before him. These coaches know what it means to win, having taken the LaLiga Santander and Copa del Rey titles respectively last season. They’ll be out to collect another victory at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano this weekend. Don’t miss Atlético Madrid vs FC Barcelona live this Saturday at 3:00am on BeINSports

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Five things you might not know about Antoine Griezmann

The ‘Little Prince’ is one of the most famous stars in world football, but here are five facts you may not know about the recently signed Atletico Madrid player
1. French scouts didn’t rate him
It was tough for Griezmann to get his first opportunity in the world of football, as scouts in France considered him too small and skinny to make it. Lyon, Saint-Étienne, Metz, Auxerre, Sochaux and Montpellier all scouted him, but it wasn’t until Real Sociedad’s French scout Eric Olhats saw the youngster and his supreme technical skills that he was offered a chance to join an elite academy. Griezmann even stayed with Olhats during his first years at Real Sociedad’s academy after making the move to northern Spain.
2. He bypassed Real Sociedad’s B team
After arriving at Real Sociedad’s Zubieta academy at the age of 13, Griezmann worked his way up the ranks and was set to play for Sanse, the club’s reserve side, in the 2009/10 season. But a pre-season injury to full-back Bingen Erdozia opened up a spot in the first team and Griezmann was temporarily promoted to the senior squad by Uruguayan coach Martín Lasarte. After turning in several excellent performances during that pre-season in the summer of 2009, Griezmann was called into the first-team squad on a permanent basis and never looked back.
3. He could have played for Portugal
Griezmann played in the Euro 2016 final between France and Portugal, unfortunately for him finishing on the losing side as Fernando Santos’ men won the tournament. Yet he could bery well have been playing for Portugal had he chosen to represent the Seleção at international level. Antoine was born in France and his father Alain Griezmann is French, but his mother Isabelle Lopes is Portuguese and was, as a result, eligible for a Portugal call-up. In 2018 he was able to redeem himself from that final lost with the conquest of the World Cup in Russia.
4. He was a huge Pavel Nedvěd fan growing up
Like all young football fans, Griezmann had many idols growing up but none so great as Pavel Nedvěd, whose poster he had on his wall. As a youngster, he even copied the Czech genius’ hairstyle. Among his other childhood heroes were Zinedine Zidane, Sonny Anderson – with whom he was famously photographed as a child – and David Beckham.
5. Lyon holds special memories for him
Griezmann grew up in the town of Mâcon, near Lyon. He was a Lyon supporter as a kid, and ironically one of his first breakthrough moments came at the expense of the French side when they faced off with Real Sociedad in a Champions League qualifier in 2013. Antoine scored a sensational bicycle kick in the away leg as Real Sociedad won the tie 4-0. He would also score twice for France in Lyon during Euro 2016 and won the 2017/18 Europa League final in the city with Atlético de Madrid, scoring twice in a 3-0 win over Marseille. 
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Atlético Madrid hope Rodrigo de Paul can become their latest Argentine legend

The 27-year-old will work with Diego Simeone after completing a transfer from Udinese. He recently won the Copa America, where he completed a great performance for Argentina

Rodrigo de Paul is back in LaLiga Santander, with the former Valencia CF midfielder having completed a move to join Spanish champions Atlético Madrid. De Paul, who came through at Racing Club in his native Argentina, was most recently at Udinese and enjoyed a stellar 2020/21 campaign, completing the most dribbles in Serie A with 122, winning the most duels with 289, earning the most fouls with 126 and providing the second-most assists with 10.

The 27-year-old followed up his excellent domestic season by helping Argentina win the Copa América this summer, the country’s first major international title in 28 years. After Lionel Messi, De Paul was arguably Argentina’s next most important player throughout the tournament and he even set up Ángel di María’s winning goal in the 1-0 victory over Brazil.

Just two days after that success, on Monday, De Paul’s transfer and five-year deal with Los Rojiblancos was confirmed. The club officially announced his arrival at 19:03 local time, a nod to the club’s founding year of 1903. That’s because Atlético Madrid are a club where tradition is important, as they respect their past and all the legends who have gone before.

Many of these legends are also from Argentina, starting with the coach himself. Diego Simeone played 172 times for the club over two stints, before going on to coach the team since 2011. He even just signed a contract extension until 2024, meaning he is going nowhere in the near future.

Other Argentines to have enjoyed success wearing red and white in the Spanish capital include Jorge Griffa, Sergio Agüero and Rubén Ayala, while De Paul’s current Argentina teammate Ángel Correa was a key part of Atleti’s LaLiga Santander triumph in 2020/21.

Where does De Paul fit in at Atlético Madrid?

De Paul arrives at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano in excellent form, so will expect to become an immediate starter at the club. As he said following his announcement: “I’m very happy, I’m going to join LaLiga’s champion and I’m conscious of the responsibility it carries. It is a big step in my football career. Moreover, because of the timing, just after winning the Copa América, this fills me with strength to meet all expectations. I’m football passionate and, because of my experience in Spanish football, I know very well Atlético Madrid.”

De Paul’s first experience in Spain was with Valencia CF, who he played for 44 times between 2014 and 2016. The midfielder, therefore, knows Spanish football well and has proven in Italy that he has more than enough drive and talent to succeed at the highest level.

Atleti won LaLiga Santander in 2020/21 by largely playing a 3-5-2 system, so De Paul should slot in nicely into one of the three central midfield spots, alongside club captain Koke. Marcos Llorente enjoyed a lot of success last campaign by bursting forward from the middle and that will be a template for De Paul to follow.

His acquisition really could prove to be one of the signings of the summer, as Atlético Madrid look to win back-to-back league titles during the 2021/22 campaign.

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