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Barça host Atlético Madrid this Saturday at 4.15pm CEST in one of the most decisive Liga games ever played between the two. Whoever wins this game will make a giant step forward towards winning the Liga title, and although it won’t end their hopes, it will be a major setback for whoever loses.
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.
DID YOU KNOW?
Atlético Madrid are popularly known as los colchoneros (the ‘matrress-makers’) because their red-and-white stripes resemble what used to be the traditional colours of mattresses.
Atlético also co-owns Liga MX club Atlético San Luis, and the Canadian Premier League side Atlético Ottawa.
Atlético originally played in the working class district of Vallecas (home today of Rayo Vallecano) and still today are traditionally viewed as the more working class of the two big Madrid clubs.
King Felipe VI of Spain is an Atlético Madrid fan, and has been the club’s honorary president since 2003.
Antoine Griezmann, now of Barça, is Atlético’s fifth highest goalscorer of all time, with 133 goals.
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 tended to be intense, tactical and low-scoring affairs.
When Carrasco scored the only goal in Atlético’s win in the reverse fixture at the Wanda Metropolitano earlier this season, it put an end to Barça’s astonishing run of 20 consecutive encounters without losing to Atlético. But that’s only in the La Liga. 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.
And in 2014, when the teams were both still in contention to win the league when they met at the Camp Nou on the final day, a 1-1 draw was enough to secure the trophy for the red-and-whites. So although Barça typically have the upper hand in this fixture, in do-or-die situations, Atlético tend to rise to the occasion.
Last five meetings:
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
21/11/20 (LIGA) Atlético 1 Barça 0
While Barça and Real Madrid both got off to uncharacteristically slow starts in the league, Atlético powered off the blocks. By the end of January, they had only been beaten once (at the Bernabéu). A run of 15 wins in 16 games put them so far ahead in the table that it seemed highly unlikely that anyone was going to catch them.
But from February onwards, they have been faltering. Since then they have only once managed to win back-to-back games, and Barça and Real Madrid are now both breathing right over their shoulders in a title race that could well go down to the wire.
Their Champions League campaign was fairly unspectacular. They managed to beat Red Bull Salzburg on the final day to make it out of their group, but just couldn’t find their game against Chelsea in the first knockout round and crashed out of the tournament 3-0 on aggregate.
And in the Copa del Rey they chose to field their second string against third tier Cornellà and ended up suffering a shock second round exit.
Most capped internationals
Luis Suárez (Uruguay, 116); Héctor Herrera (Mexico, 78); José Giménez (Uruguay, 60); Stefan Savić (Montenegro, 57); Koke (Spain, 49); Šime Vrsaljko (Croatia, 47); Yannick Carrasco (Belgium, 44); Jan Oblak (Slovenia, 36); Lucas Torreira (Uruguay, 26); Kieran Trippier (England, 26)
Top scorers 2020/21 (all competitions)
Luis Suárez (19), Marcos Llorente (13), Joao Felix (10), Angel Correa (7), Yannick Carrasco (6)
Luis Suárez, one of the best and most successful players ever to come out of Uruguay, certainly in the modern era, joined Barça from Liverpool in 2014 and went on to score 198 goals for the club, placing him third in the all-time list. He departed for Atlético last summer and this will be the first time he has returned to Camp Nou since the move.
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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