In any season, match ups against FC Barcelona would be highly anticipated by Atleti fans and perhaps a bunch of La Liga lovers.
This time, however, the game against the Catalan giants is more than just another league fixture. The entire world will be watching as Atlético Madrid and Barcelona face off in what’s arguably the biggest match of the season in any league around Europe.
The two teams come into the game with a record of 16 wins, a single draw and a total of 49 points. The battle at Cholo Castle will not only cap off the first round of La Liga, but could also have huge consequences considering the Spanish league is decided on a head to head record if the teams were still to be tied in points on the final day.
Diego Simeone refuses to look that far ahead and told the press on Friday that he’s approaching the clash with the Culés as just another game.
“This is an important game, but it’s still just another game in a long season. It’s not a final”, the Argentine coach said.
The importance of the game was emphasized by Cholo’s decision to call up his full squad for the game. Only Léo Baptistão, who was excused, and Mario Suárez, who is still recovering from injury, are missing.
In the Spanish Super Cup this season Simeone went with the exact same line up in both games, consisting of Courtois, Juanfran, Miranda, Godín, Filipe, Arda, Gabi, Mario, Koke, Diego Costa and David Villa. Other than Mario and perhaps the disapppointing Villa there seems little reason to change the team. El Guaje has struggled recently, but did net an incredible goal in the previous encounter at the Vicente Calderón.
Like his counterpart, Tata Martino also has all of his men available as both teams will start their Once de Gala.
Martino got terrific news when Lionel Messi recovered just in time to return to the team. The diminutive superstar played 30 minutes in Wednesday’s cup game with Getafe and immediately bagged two goals, showing he needs little rhythm to return to his best form.
Like Messi, Brazilian duo Neymar and Dani Alves are also expected to return for Barça, giving their coach a plethora of options to pick from.
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Aranzubia, Bounou
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Manquillo, Alderweireld, Giménez, Juanfran, Miranda, Insúa
Midfielders: Koke, Raúl García, Gabi, Arda, Guilavogui, Óliver, Tiago, C. Rodríguez, Sosa
Forwards: Adrián, Villa and Diego Costa
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