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On Saturday at 9.00pm CET, FC Barcelona are away to Atlético Madrid in one of the classic fixtures in La Liga. Let’s take a closer look at the mattress-makers.
Founded by Basques living in the Spanish capital (hence the name and the red and white shirts modelled on those of Athletic Club) Atlético Madrid is one of the biggest clubs in the world. But competing in the same league as the even more gargantuan Real Madrid and FC Barcelona means trophies have been harder to come by than one would expect for a club of such stature.
They have won ten leagues, most recently in 1996 and 2014, and have won the Europa League three times in the last decade, while also reaching the Champions League final twice, suffering the pain of losing on both occasions to their city rivals Real.
Located in the Rosas neighbourhood, the Wanda Metropolitano replaced the Vicente Calderón as the home of Atlético in 2017. It is an expansion of an abandoned ground originally built for an unsuccessful bid to host the World Athletics Championships. Holding over 68,000 supporters, it takes its name from the Chinese real estate company that acquired the naming rights. It was here that Liverpool beat Tottenham 2-0 to win the Champions League in 2019.
HEAD TO HEAD
Games between Barça and Atlético developed a tradition of being absolute humdingers, with goals flying in at both ends, but perhaps as a result of Diego Simeone’s ‘caution first’ approach, encounters in the last decade have instead been intense, tactical and low-scoring affairs.
Barça are unbeaten in an astonishing 20 consecutive league encounters against Atlético. But that’s only in the league. During that same period the rojiblancos have twice eliminated the Catalans from the Champions League and also won the Spanish Super Cup semi-final in Saudi Arabia in January of this year.
Last five meetings:
24/11/18 (LIGA) Atlético 1 Barça 1 (Dembélé)
6/4/19 (LIGA) Barça 2 (Suárez, Messi) Atlético 0
1/12/19 (LIGA) Atlético 0 Barça 1 (Messi)
9/1/20 (SUPER CUP IN JEDDAH) Barça 2 (Messi, Griezmann) Atlético 3
30/6/20 (LIGA) Barça 2 (OG, Messi) Atlético 2
After finishing third in La Liga last season, Atlético have got 2020/21 off to a fine start are the only side that is still unbeaten, having scored 17 goals and remarkably only conceded two. They’ve only dropped points in 0-0 draws with Huesca (A) and Villarreal (H) and are have won their last four games.
Their Champions League campaign, however, hardly got off to a bright start when they lost 4-0 at the home of last season’s winners Bayern Munich. They are in second place at the halfway stage of a group that also features Red Bull Salzburg and Lokomotiv Moscow.
Top scorers 2019/20 (all competitions): Álvaro Morata (9), Joao Felix (4)
Most capped internationals: Luis Suárez (Uruguay, 116); Héctor Herrera (Mexico, 76); José Giménez (Uruguay, 60); Stefan Savić (Montenegro, 55); Koke (Spain, 47); Šime Vrsaljko (Croatia, 45); Yannick Carrasco (Belgium, 44); Jan Oblak (Slovenia, 33); Lucas Torreira (Uruguay, 26); Kieran Trippier (England, 25)
Top scorers 2020/21 (all competitions): João Félix, 7; Luis Suarez, 4; Marcos Llorente, 4
Best known for his over 100 caps, including three World Cups, for Argentina, Diego Simeone played a large part of his club football at Atlético. Following retirement, he managed a number of clubs in his home country plus Catania in Italy before being invited back to Atlético in 2011 as a replacement for the sacked Gregorio Manzano.
He has gone on to become the club’s most successful manager ever.
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