Leo Messi has scored 12 goals in the last seven league games with Atlético at the Camp Nou / FCB ARCHIVE

[[DES_1]]Barça face Atlético Madrid in one of the most eagerly awaited fixtures of the Liga season on Sunday at 9.00pm (CET). It’s the first meeting between the sides since they met in a gripping final-day clash last season, with both sides still in contention for the title. Barça had one hand on the trophy when Alexis fired them into a first half-time lead, but Godin’s headed equaliser ended up breaking the Camp Nou’s hearts.

This year’s game is not quite as decisive as the one in May 2014, but nevertheless could have a huge bearing on the eventual outcome of the domestic championship. After Real Madrid beat Espanyol 3-0 on Saturday, neither side can afford to lose.

Team news: Jérémy Mathieu has been declared fully fit after his recovery from an Achilles tendon injury, but he has not been named in the squad, while Xavi Hernández also misses out. There are no places for Masip, Douglas or Montoya either, but Munir of Barça B gets the nod. Atlético are without the injured Ansaldi and Cani.

The view from the dugout: Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, manager Luis Enrique said “Last season Diego Simeone was saying at this stage that he didn’t think his team were real contenders for the title. But he ‘tricked’ us. Now he’s saying the same thing again, and we’re not falling for it. Atlético play very well as a unit. And they are very dangerous from set pieces and on the counter attack. Not only that, but they will be an even bigger threat following the signings of Fernando Torres and Cani."

Form Guide: Barça suffered their first league defeat since November at Real Sociedad last week, but bounced back with a convincing 5-0 win in their midweek cup tie at home to Elche. Home defeat to Villarreal in December looked to have distanced Atlético from the title race, but they are now right back in the fold, tied with Barça in second place on 38 points. Atlético beat Liga leaders Real Madrid 2-0 in the cup this week, and if they can defend that lead in the second leg, they will play the winners of Barça v Elche in the quarter finals. So there is a very good chance of these two teams meeting again in January. What’s more, Barça and Atlético are both still involved in the Champions League.

How they stack up: FC Barcelona v Atlético Madrid

Ones to watch: Who else but Leo Messi? The Argentinian has scored 12 goals against Atlético Madrid at the Camp Nou in the last seven seasons, including two hat-tricks. Against Elche, all of Messi, Neymar and Suárez got on the scoresheet. Barça’s attacking threesome is gelling more and more as the season progresses, and it’ll be interesting to see how they get on against Atlético’s rock-solid defence. For the visitors, all eyes will be on Fernando Torres. After mixed fortunes at Liverpool, Chelsea and AC Milan, ‘El Niño’ is back where it all started for him. If there are still question marks against his name, then the Camp Nou is the perfect place to dispel them.

History: Ever since the nineties, the Barça v Atlético fixture has had a famous tradition of producing plenty of action, and it has not been unusual for six, seven and even more goals to be scored. The goals continued to flow in recent years, but it has been Barça that have been scoring most of them. All that changed last season. The sides met no fewer than six times in La Liga, the Spanish Cup and the Champions league and they were all intense, tight affairs, with neither side managing to score more than once in any of them. The outcome was five draws and a solitary win for Atlético at the Vicente Calderón, 1-0 in the Champions League.

The best FC Barcelona v Atlético Madrid games at the Camp Nou

Coverage: The game is being shown live in Spain on Canal +, on Sky Sports 5 in the UK and on beIN Sports in the US. For other countries, check here.


Complete 18-man squad

Ter Stegen, C. Bravo, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Pedro, Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Rafinha, Mascherano, Bartra, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, Adriano, Alves and Munir.

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