Atlético travel north to Catalonia this weekend to take on Barcelona, in the first visit to the Camp Nou since claiming their tenth La Liga crown back in May.
Kick-off is on Sunday night at 21:00 CET.
And whilst Atlético aren’t top of the league going into this encounter, Los Rojiblancos are still in a strong position to compete for the championship come the end of the season, just four points off of leaders Real Madrid, and level on points with Sunday night’s opponents.
Spirits are high in the Atlético camp, after a well-deserved 2-0 win over Real Madrid at the Vicente Calderón on Wednesday evening. The filling in the Copa del Rey sandwich doesn’t get any tastier than a match against the Blaugrana, and it arguably couldn’t come at a better time for Atleti.
In the midst of a period fraught with managerial uncertainty, rumours of their best player being unhappy, sackings and sanctions from UEFA, it looks like Barcelona is in turmoil. But an impressive 5-0 win over Elche in the cup during the week showed that they can still play well on the field, even if the headlines aren’t so good off of it.
Regardless, Atleti are unbeaten in their last six matches against Barcelona. However they have just won one of these, and neither team has scored more than a single goal in any of these encounters.
Things couldn’t be more different than the last time El Niño lined up to face Barca for Atleti. Yes, that game. Atleti were humiliated 6-0, at home, and this lit the fuse that eventually led to a one-way trip to Liverpool.
Now Fernando Torres has returned, and is in line for his second La Liga debut for Atleti, after starting and playing an hour of the tie with Real Madrid in midweek. This turned out to be Fernando Torres’ first win over Real Madrid in an Atleti shirt. Hopefully he’ll be counting another victory come Sunday night, whether it’s from the beginning or from the bench.
Diego Simeone has a squad of 20 to choose from, with only Ansaldi missing out through injury.
Miranda returns to the fold following a few weeks out, and will hope to reclaim his place from José Giménez, who has certainly impressed in the Brazilian’s absence.
The game comes too soon for Atleti’s newest signing, Cani, who joined on loan from Villarreal. He will watch the match from home, along with Cristian Rodriguez.
Whether Simeone will ring the changes again remains a mystery, following Cholo’s decision to replace eight players for the cup game with Real Madrid. One of the lucky players to come in was Jan Oblak, who impressed with a clean sheet on his 22nd birthday.
“It was amazing. It was a great experience, incredible,” Oblak told the media. “I’m happy for myself and for the team. I’m amazed. I’d never dreamt of a birthday like it. It was a great gift, the very best I could have hoped for.”
“I train every day and wait for my chance. When the manager gives me the nod, I have to go for it.”
Messi and Neymar are set to start for Barcelona, along with Luis Suarez, who makes his first appearance against Atleti in a Barcelona shirt.
“Barcelona are a team with a lot of great players in every position.” Cholo told the media on Saturday. “They will enjoy a lot of possession. They can handle the counter-attack, the ball, they have good pressure and they continue to show the traits that led to them becoming one of the best teams in the world.”
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Juanfran, Gámez, Miranda, Godín, Giménez, Lucas, Siqueira.
Midfielders: Gabi, Tiago, Mario Suárez, Saúl, Arda Turan, Koke, Raúl García.
Forwards: Mandzukic, Raúl Jiménez, Fernando Torres, Griezmann.
Form guide (last six in the league)
Barcelona – WWWDWL
Atlético – WWWLWW