Match preview: Atlético vs. Barcelona

Rojiblancos out to spoil the party as strike plans are put on hold

Torres to lead the line against Barça

Torres to lead the line against Barça

Atlético Madrid play at home for the last time this season on Sunday evening, and will be looking to seal third place with a win against treble-chasing Barcelona.

After weeks of uncertainty surrounding a possible strike, the game was finally given the go ahead on Thursday and is of crucial importance to both teams.

Kick-off in the Vicente Calderón is set for 19:00 CET.

On the one-year anniversary of Atleti’s miraculous league win at the Camp Nou, and the previous year’s Copa del Rey triumph, Barcelona can regain the title with three points in the capital.

Thankfully, the red and whites are not in a position where a win would hand the initiative to rivals Real Madrid, but go into the game as second favourites irregardless against a team in red-hot form at the moment.

Barça are four points clear at the top of La Liga, and will be aiming to secure their status as champions sooner rather than later to prepare for their two finals at the end of the month.

When the two teams met back in January, the Blaugrana were supposedly in the midst of a crisis and manager Luis Enrique had his job on the line, but they have since turned it around with a stunning run of 28 wins from 31 matches.

Atleti come into the match without a win in their last two, but know that three points tomorrow or away at Granada next week will secure automatic Champions League qualification.

With just one defeat in the second half of the season – back at Enrique’s former side Celta Vigo in February – Simeone’s men will want to keep that record intact and keep hold of their title for one more week.

Cholo was full of praise for the visiting team in his press conference, highlighting their improvement this year and paying tribute to their quite brilliant attacking trio.

“I wouldn’t know where to start praising Barcelona,” he said. “They worry me because they’re such a good team. It’s best not to think; it’s best to play every second like it was the last. If you think, you lose focus.”

“Last season, possibly they didn’t have the regularity to which we are used to, and we took advantage of that situation.

“What’s the difference this year? Now they have two great goalkeepers, Piqué has had a very good season, Mascherano is consistent, Rakitic has given the midfield stability and Luis Suárez made the team more complete.”

“They are also better on set pieces both defensively and offensively, and of course, have extraordinary players still such as Messi or Neymar.”

The Argentine boss also assessed his team’s campaign, declaring himself pleased with their attempts to defend the league title and eager to continue challenging for more in the future.

“Without doubt, I would have signed on the dotted line for a season like this one. The most difficult is always the one after you have won something you’re not used to, so I am happy.”

Eighteen players make the squad for Atleti, but despite having a clean bill of health they will be without Tiago in midfield due to suspension.

Simeone did confirm that Fernando Torres is set to start up front, getting the nod ahead of Mario Mandzukic on the back of his equaliser at Levante last weekend.

Diego Godín will also return to the line-up, having served a one-match ban.

Barça had been sweating on the fitness of Luis Suárez, but it looks now as if he will be available having rejoined full training on Saturday. They make the trip at full strength.

Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Godín, Siqueira, Gámez, Juanfran, Miranda, Giménez
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Koke, Griezmann, Raúl García, Arda, Gabi, Saúl
Forwards: Mandžukić, Raúl Jiménez, Torres

  • I hate to sounds negative, but Atletico will need to bring their “A” game to win this. And they have been no where close to their best in last 4 weeks. It would be nice to pull out a miracle and get the 3 points and 3rd place in La Liga.

  • Chewie

    Will take the draw anytime, even a goalless one. But one thing is for sure – we will suffer.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    I don’t think Celta game will be easy for Valencia, and a draw in Mestalla will make the draw in the Calderon enough for us to clinch the 3rd place
    There is also a big chance that RM will drop points in Cornella after their CL exit and without Ancelotti on the bench, a draw their will also mean that Barca need a draw against us to win the title .. the whole round will be played on the same time, so Simeone & Enrique should keep an eye on Mestalla & Cornella, they both could leave happy tonight .

  • Jeronamo Pakor Jones

    I hope Jiminez plays in the second half and not Mandzukic