Vilanova, en la roda de premsa prèvia al partit contra l'Atlètic. FOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB.

On the day before Barça welcome second-placed Atletico Madrid to the Camp Nou, Tito Vilanova had nothing but praise for Sunday evening’s opponents.  “Their points total says it all.  We’ve made the best ever start to a league season and they’re only 6 points behind.  In any other league they would be the leaders.  They’re making a great start to the season and they finished in excellent form last season.  Putting the two runs together is spectacular”.

Despite losing to Real Madrid a couple of weeks ago, Vilanova expects Atletico to make it “a really complicated” match.  He told reporters today: “The games they haven’t taken points from have been at grounds where you can easily lose.  I put more value on the number of points they’ve managed to accumulate and their form in the Cup and the Europa League.  They believe in themselves and that’s the most important thing in a team”.  He also singled out the visiting manager, Diego Simeone, for special praise: “It was difficult to take over in the middle of the season and change the dynamic.  And that’s what he did last year”.

More than just Falcao

Columbian striker Radamel Falcao has been outstanding this season for Atletico but Vilanova believes that teamwork has also been a significant factor in the team’s success: “They’ve got a group of quality players, who are absolutely clear about what they have to do.  They’re not just Falcao; they’ve got goal scorers like Diego Costa and Adrián, and the midfielders and fullbacks get into attacking positions.  And when they have to defend, they defend very well all together”.

However, Vilanova revealed that the presence of the Columbian striker won’t change the way Barça approach the game: “We’re at our most comfortable the farther away we are from our goal area and logically we won’t change the way we play, especially with Falcao (on the pitch)".  As for any comparison with Leo Messi, he told reporters: “They’re different players.  In common, they have the ability to score and to get better and better”.

The best possible line-up

Vilanova cited Wednesday’s Cordoba game as an example of the insatiable hunger of this players: “The good fortune we have is that they enjoy themselves.  They want to play.  The feeling that comes across to me is that they want to compete.  The fact that these players still have the hunger to win makes our job easy.  There are no matches without value in this Club.  Against Atletico, as always, I’ll choose the best possible line-up for the match”.

One of the manager’s key decisions will be how to replace Cesc Fàbregas.   According to Vilanova, "Cesc is injured and we can’t expect another player to do his job because no two players are the same.  We know that Iniesta can adapt to the two positions, on the wing or in midfield, and that he’s an extraordinary footballer wherever he plays”.