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With Champions League last sixteen qualification in the bag, FC Barcelona now face one of the toughest away trips of the season on Sunday at 9.00pm CET as they visit the home of Atlético Madrid.
After Real Madrid won 2-1 at Alavés on Saturday, the all-whites are temporarily top of the table, but Barça will go back into first place with three points in the final game of the weekend, and it would put a handy six points between themselves and Atlético.
Ousmane Dembélé picked up a hamstring injury against former club Dortmund midweek and will be out for around ten weeks, joining Nélson Semedo and Jordi Alba in the treatment room. With Sergio Busquets suspended, the biggest questions are around the kind of team Barça will line up in midfield.
The list for Sunday’s trip is as follows: Ter Stegen, Piqué, Rakitic, Arthur, Suárez, Messi, Neto, Lenglet, Wague, Griezmann, Aleñá, S Roberto, De Jong, Vidal, Umtiti, Junior, Pérez and Ansu Fati.
THE MANAGER SAYS
BIG GAME FOR GRIEZMANN
All eyes will be on the French striker, who joined Barça this summer after five glorious seasons at Atlético. What kind of reception can be expect on his first trip back?
"He’ll be received however the fans choose” said Valverde. “There no reason for it to affect us or the player. They’re used to playing in favourable or unfavourable environments. It’ll be exciting for him.”
Griezmann, who joined Atlético from Real Sociedad in 2014, played 180 games for the colchoneros and scored 94 goals.
This game will be the first in which Barça will be donning their brand new yellow strip with four red diagonal stripes honouring the colours if the ‘senyera’, the Catalan national flag.
Barça’s last three games at Atlético (including the first two at the Wanda Metropolitano) have all ended 1-1. The last trip to the new stadium was almost exactly year ago, when Diego Costa, who is injured this time round, put the home side a goal up with just 13 minutes to go but the also currently injured Dembélé nabbed an injury time equaliser.
DID YOU KNOW?
For such a high-profile fixture between two footballing greats, it’s incredible to note that Barça have gone an extraordinary 18 games without defeat to Atlético, dating all the way back to the Pep Guardiola era in February 2010.
But stats work both ways. After seven games away to Atlético (including with Espanyol and Villarreal) Ernesto Valverde is still looking for this first win.
It comes as no surprise to learn who Barça’s two top scorers against Atlético have been. The 29 goals Leo Messi has scored against the side is only topped by his 37 against Sevilla, while Luis Suárez has netted eight goals and got four assists.
Meanwhile, not a single current member of the Atlético side has scored more than goal against Barça (although Vitolo has two if we also count one he got for Sevilla).
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