With just less than three hours until kick-off, we sat down with the guys over a totalBarça to ask them the tough questions ahead of today’s match. You can read our side of the conversation over at their site, but for now, let’s hear what content manager Enrique Schoch had to say…
Q – What difference does it make coming to the Vicente Calderón earlier in the season, as opposed to nearer the end?
Well there’s obviously less on the line. In a way its disappointing this clash has come so early in the year as both teams are still shaking off the summer rust and not in full pomp. It takes some significance off the result because there are simply so many games to go.
Q – With Neymar missing the first few weeks of La Liga, and Messi coming back from international duty on Friday, how do you see the three strikers? Will they be more fatigued than usual?
Not foreseeing issues here at all. These aren’t rookies fresh off the lot – we’re taking about three of football’s most elite players who are very use to what it means being that – the traveling and the congestion of matches.
Luis Suárez had the whole time off so he’ll be fresh and even Neymar only played just over a half in the past 10 days. Additionally they’ve got a full season under their belt during which they demonstrated excellent footballing understanding with one another.
Q – Even though Barcelona made two signings, neither can play until January. Do you see the team changing/ tweaking its playing style from last season during the first half of this season or will it only happen after the ban is up?
Why would there be a tweak in style whether Arda Turan or Aleix Vidal were available or not? Both players have been brought in to improve the strength of the squad, to act as supplementary players not to revolutionise a treble winning system.
Thanks to Luis Enrique’s fitness gurus and a good slice of luck, Barça went through last season with almost no injury issues to speak of but it was always evident to culés that against the best teams on the continent substitutes like Rafinha, Sergi Roberto or Martín Montoya weren’t going to make the difference.
That’s why the pair arrived, Turan to compete with Andrés Iniesta an Ivan Rakitić and Vidal to give Dani Alves rest or provide a different option upfront.
Q – Last season, Atleti didn’t have many goal scorers on the team. However, now Atleti has Griezmann, Jackson, Torres, Vietto and Correa. Who scares you the most?
Honestly, it’s too early in the year for me to have an opinion on the new boys like Vietto and Correa. The latter is getting a lot of praise but I like to form my own opinion by watching myself.
Griezmann is the player I rate most highly, and that goes back to his first days in San Sebastian. He was fantastic in the closing end of last season and should only bring that forward. The Frenchman is also my pick because he should be tasked at running at Sergi Roberto, Barça’s makeshift rightback, and that is something for the blaugrana to worry about.
Q – Last season, there was a lot of tension between Atleti players and Neymar. Do you see this repeating itself or do you think Neymar will leave the games at home?
It depends if Atleti players decide to leave their cynical play at home. I was very proud of Neymar for saying enough is enough and standing up for himself those evenings. It was obvious there was a strategy in place to wind him up with endless digs and excessive physicality, which worked to an extent, though Barça came out winners and Neymar regularly embarrassed a number of opponents with his joga bonito.
Neymar is a human, a young one at that, so while one day he will understand the need to control his emotions better, there’s nothing wrong with him fighting fire with fire. For the talk of “games”, I didn’t see anything too playful in the pool of blood seeping from Neymar’s ankle. Why should he be pushed around and trash talked and simply take it?
Q – Filipe Luis is back on the left wing for Atleti. Do you think he still remembers how to slow Messi down?
Luis was the best left-back in the game two seasons back but he just spent a year doing nothing in London. So time will tell what kind of shape he is in.
That said, Luis even at 70% is better than Siquiera. If Atlético are to be successful at controlling Messi it will come down to a collective effort not only Luis as the Argentine drifts and moves as he sees fit given the dynamics of the game.
You can see for yourself how we get on against Barcelona, with the game tonight at 20:30 CEST.