The wait is over. 13 days after the last league game, Barça are back in action with a HUGE game. It’s Atlético Madrid away, one of the biggest games not just in Spain but in the whole of Europe in recent years, with the Catalans still top of the league despite the setback at home to Betis, but the home side today just a point adrift in a championship that now sees just four points separating the top six sides.
After a 1-1 draw in the last visit to the Wanda Metropolitano, in fact that was Barça’s first ever game at the new stadium, Barça have a tough job against a team that’s put an unsteady start to the campaign behind them and has strung together nine games without defeat.
But it’s eight seasons since Barça last lost away to the ‘mattress-makers’ and in this curious season, it’s been against the big teams that the blaugrana have generally been producing their best football.
Diego Simeone reckons that “Barça is still the best team in the world. He also confirmed that his has three key players out through injury and that one of his biggest concerns about Valverde’s side is “the speed with which they can move whether it’s Coutinho or Malcom”.
Valverde is also full of respect for his opponent, which he describes as “highly competitive and a very definite candidate for the title. We will need to play at our very best if we want to win this one – Atlético are especially good at using space and from dead ball situations.
Vermaleen, Samper, Coutinho and Rakitic are all out through injury, while there is no room for Denis Suárez in the following squad: Ter Stegen, Semedo, Piqué, Sergio, Arthur, Suárez, Messi, O. Dembélé, Rafinha, Cillessen, Malcom, Lenglet, Jordi Alba, Munir, S. Roberto, Vidal, Umtiti and Aleñá.
Atlético Madrid’s fitness concerns are all at the back, where Godín, Giménez and Juanfran are all side-lined.