MATCH PREVIEW: Atlético Madrid vs FC Barcelona

MATCH PREVIEW: Atlético Madrid vs FC Barcelona

The international break over, La Liga returns with the Catalans visiting the new Wanda Metropolitano stadium for the first time as they seek an eighth straight win at the start of the campaign

Now that we’ve all caught our breath after a roller-coaster week of World Cup qualifying matches, it’s time to switch our attention back to La Liga.

Now where were we? Ah yes, Barça had opened the campaign with a seven-match winning spree and are five points clear at the top of the table. Sweet. Very sweet. In fact, one more win would match the team's best ever start to a league campaign.

But this is also one of the trickiest of all 38 fixtures – the trip to Madrid to face Atlético (Saturday at 8.45pm CET).

The game will be the Catalan’s first ever visit to the brand new Wanda Metropolitano stadium, where hopefully they’ll be able to end a five-match streak of losses at new venues. Oviedo’s Carlos Tartiere sixteen years ago was the last ground that Barça conquered at the first attempt.

Team news

There will no doubt be much talk of the ‘FIFA virus’, an expression used locally to refer to the problems clubs like Barça face when playing immediately after international breaks. In all fairness, however, Atlético have also had an exodus of their own to deal with.

Andrés Iniesta is ready in time for Saturday match and is in the squad. The rest of the internationals are fit and in the squad. Valverde has left out Alcácer, Aleix Vidal and Vermaelen while Arda, Rafinha and Dembélé are injured. The Turk bruised a metatarsal bone playing for Turkey and joins the long-term absentees.  

The squad for the trip to Madrid in full: Ter Stegen, Cillessen, Semedo, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Denis, Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Mascherano, Paulinho, Deulofeu, Jordi Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes and Umtiti. 

The main concerns in the Atlético camp are defenders Filipe Luís and Lucas Hernández, both of whom have been training this week and may be set to return to action.

Coaches’ viewpoint

Ernesto Valverde spoke to the media ahead of a game he is expecting to be tough: “Atlético are uncomfortable opponents because they make their goals count; they are difficult to scores and a very solid defensively."

The Barça coach also touched on his team’s first game at the Madrid club’s new home. “There will be a spectacular atmosphere because football is a show and we want people to enjoy it,” said Valverde.

Atlético coach Diego Simeone was in confident mood when he said: “We’ve always played well against Barcelona”. He then added: “Our goal is to compete how we’ve always competed and to be convincing.” His comments prove just how tough an assignment Barça face on Saturday.

Form guide

Seven wins out of seven, 23 goals scored and just two conceded. La Liga has got off to a prefect start for the blaugrana.

Because they needed time to get their new stadium ready, Atlético have only played two home games out of seven, but they won them both and are still unbeaten in the competition. But draws at Girona, Valencia and Leganés mean they are already six points adrift of leaders Barça.

History

Atlético haven’t won a league game against Barça since the 2009/10 season. It should be said that the draw at the Camp Nou in 2014 was enough to secure the red-and-white the title, and they have also knocked FCB out of the Champions League twice in that time, but the scales are still heavily tipped in Barça's favour.

And Leo Messi will be coming into this game in a buoyant mood after his wonder-night for Argentina in Quito, and he’ll be doing so against his second ‘favourite’ victim in all competitions. He’s scored 27 times against the mattress-makers, and only Sevilla have suffered more.

Coverage

Our TV guide should help you find the right place to watch the game, but don’t panic if you can’t get to see a broadcast. The English language commentary with Nick Simons on Radio Barça can often be just as good as watching the game live (the link will appear on the home page shortly before kick-off) and our official Twitter account is another great way to keep in touch with events.

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