Match preview: Barcelona vs. Atlético

Atleti travel to the Camp Nou for proverbial six-pointer against MSN and co

Referees took centre stage in last season's meetings between the two clubs

Referees took centre stage in last season's meetings between the two clubs

We may only be a few weeks in, but Atlético Madrid play a match that could go a long way towards shaping their season away to Barcelona on Wednesday night.

Having started slowly, the rojiblancos cannot afford to lose any more ground at the top of La Liga and will make the trip in search of their first win at the Camp Nou since 2006.

Kick-off in Catalonia is set for 22:00 CET.

The phrase ‘Partido a partido’ (game by game) was adopted and used to great effect by Simeone on the road to Atleti’s 2014 title win, but fans have somewhat abandoned this mantra in recent weeks.

Since starting the season slowly with disappointing draws against Alavés and Leganés, all eyes have been fixated on Wednesday night’s fixture and the potential repercussions on the La Liga title race.

Having lost themselves to Alavés just over a week ago, there is also big pressure on Barcelona given that in all likelihood, Real Madrid will be 6 and 7 points ahead of the two teams respectively come kick-off.

With three wins in three and four successive clean sheets, Atleti have responded well to their early season blip, hitting five past Sporting Gijón on Saturday in an impressive attacking display.

Having answered fans’ calls to play a more offensive line-up against the Asturian side, Simeone suggested that his strikers all have a part to play in the Camp Nou although he will be reverting to his usual, more conservative approach.

“I have confidence in all four of our strikers,” he said. “We are going to need them on Wednesday, it will be a long match with a lot of work for them so we could see them all play a part.”

“More than in midfield, this is a game that will be determined in the penalty areas. If we defend in the best way, we have options to take advantage in attack.”

The Argentine head coach has selected 19 players for the trip, with Sime Vrsaljko staying in Madrid along with the injured Miguel Ángel Moyá, Tiago and Alessio Cerci due to technical decision.

Reports state that Gabi will return to the XI after missing the win over Sporting, and that Yannick Carrasco – subbed at half-time on Saturday – could keep his place alongside Antoine Griezmann and Kevin Gameiro

As for Barça, they suffered a blow today with the news that French centre-back Samuel Umtiti will miss out due to a knee problem. Javier Mascherano is likely to come back into the team in his absence.

Otherwise they are at full strength, and Luis Enrique is expected to name his strongest line-up with the fearsome trio of Lionel Messi, Luís Suárez and Neymar in attack.

“We have to limit our mistakes and stick to our game plan,” said Enrique in his press conference. “They base their game on being solid at the back, but they are masters of the counter attack and have quality strikers.”

“This is a game between two teams that know each other well, which makes it all the more exciting. I hope to see a good atmosphere in the Camp Nou because that’s what we need.”

Since losing that match against Alavés, the Blaugrana have scored 12 goals in 2 games and in total they are unbeaten in fifteen matches against Atlético at home. Fernando Torres scored twice in our last win at the Camp Nou back in 2006.

In our last six trips to the Camp Nou, we’ve seen 5 players sent off including three last season. Discipline will be key, as many feel that Atleti have had the edge in recent meetings when numbers were equal.

After the match, Cholo‘s men will begin preparing for Sunday’s clash with Deportivo La Coruña in the Calderón, before our Champions League date with Bayern Munich in a week’s time.

Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Oblak, Moreira
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Savic, Lucas, Juanfran, Giménez
Midfielders: Koke, Saúl, Carrasco, Augusto, Gabi, Thomas, Gaitán
Forwards: Griezmann, Torres, Correa, Gameiro

  • Mitch

    Barcelona plays very much like the Spanish national team, the only way to beat them is don’t give them time to think/tiki taka and that’s how Brazil did it in the Confederations Cup in 2013.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    10 years without a win at an opponent’s stadium is too long for Atleti, even if it was Camp Nou, there is a whole generation that never witnessed an Atleti win there .
    I was lucky enough to see Torres lead us to beat them at their home, twice, in 2005 and 2006, scoring a double in each game, and believe me, it felt so good, even better than winning at the Bernabeu, a win at Camp Nou is much more special .

    Simeone deserves a win there, and I have a feeling that he will get it tomorrow, and I also feel that Gameiro will score .
    I had many complaints about Simeone’s approaches against small teams, and it turned out that I was right about some of them, but against Barca I have nothing to say, those are Simeone’s games, he taught the whole world how to play against them .

    This will sound strange, stupid actually, but if we couldn’t win then I prefer we lose, a draw will be a huge boost for Real Madrid, will give them 5 points advantage over Barca and 6 over us, and no, I don’t think they will drop points against Villarreal, and I don’t think they drop many points against the rest of La Liga teams other than Barca & Atleti, and if they struggled in some games they will get an outside help, only one La Liga title in the last 8 seasons, Spain will not accept that very easily .

  • AndersAT

    I also have a feeling that we will get a good result. But i would be satisfied with a draw. I am not sure that i have the same feeling about Real Madrid. After the two draws i was way more worried about Barca leaving us behind and never looking back (by the way, when i saw the way we could play against Celta and Sporting the two draws hurts even more).

    I am not convinced about Zidane yet. I think it will prove a benefit for them, that they didn’t go out and by new superstars. Zidane had a good second half og 2015/16, but it wasn’t the most difficult matches. And lets face it, he was lucky to win the CL final. That wasn’t a stroke of tactical genius. They totally gave over the initiative, and were lucky that we didn’t win in the ordinary game. So i am not yet afraid that Real Madrid won’t loose points to the likes of Villareal (or Alaves :)) this season.

    So no matter what i don’t think the season will be won or lost this night, but a lose would hurt like a bitch.

  • Paweł Kosiński

    “10 years without a win at an opponent’s stadium is too long for Atleti, even if it was Camp Nou” – especially considering that we have no problem conquering the apparently equally difficult Santiago Bernabeu.

  • victor mathias

    ten years without a win atletico could break that deadlock tonight

  • samer kozaylee

    I think our drawback is Juanfran side ,Neymar is faster then him . Our first enemy isn’t the luck is the fucken referee. However all our attackers are performing . A draw will be fair . A wining would be great and a massive boosting. Villarreal is a strong opponent for Real Madrid and their coach is super defensive one , So the Valencian side might get a results .

  • Koke

    I think a draw today would be completely acceptable whereas a loss would be a huge blow. I think Atleti’s job nowadays is simply to gain as many points as possible; we should have no ambitions other than winning La Liga at best and finishing in the top 3 at worst. Only the lesser teams like Sevilla, Villareal, Valencia etc can think along the lines of “okay, maybe we have no hope of winning the league, but we can at least make a huge impact on who wins by winning or losing to the top teams”.

    I’m not fooled for a second by the first few results in La Liga this season for Real Madrid. I’m still not convinced by them. I think Zidane is the perfect personality for their team (like Simeone has the perfect personality for us) and that Zidane can do fantastic things for Madrid if he’s given enough time (which probably won’t happen) but I still think he has been largely riding his luck in terms of all he’s achieved so far. He definitely did not deserve to win the Champion’s League, and even in La Liga luck has gone his way a couple times. Same with Barca to be honest. Definitely same with us. I don’t know how many points Barca and Madrid will drop over the season, but I know that they CAN drop points. They aren’t as invincible as they seem.

    People always see the likes of Barca and Madrid win 4, 5, or 6 to 0 and think the game was completely one sided. Often it is, but often it isn’t. In a lot of those games the opponent makes them really uncomfortable for the first 15 to 30 minutes and creates chances to score against them, which they seem to fail to convert a lot of the time. If they do score, the game can get dangerous for the big team (like Barcelona vs Alaves) but if they don’t, the big team will eventually score one or two goals and then the floodgates open (Barcelona vs Leganes). For Barca and Madrid against the minnows, 3-0 is not that different from 7-0, because those extra few goals come when the opponent is already too defeated to defend properly.

    Sorry for the long post, but I guess the “too long, didn’t read” version is: Barca and Madrid aren’t invincible or as unplayable as they first appear, and both can certainly drop points over the course of the season against smaller Liga sides, many of which are underrated. Knowing this, it would be a crime not to pick up every single last possible point we can, or to play off any single dropped point as not a big deal. One point could cost us in May.

  • Koke

    As Ahmad said, the games against the likes of Barca, Madrid, and Bayern are “Simeone’s games” – I will blindly follow almost anything he decides to do in this game because he has masterminded tactics that are so damn consistently effective against these guys. For any and all of his other shortcomings, his game management against super-teams is legendary. I would not complain to see 3 or maybe even 4 CMs in this game, but I think this would be the best bet:

    1) Torres starts – Torres has an incredible record of scoring against Barca and Madrid. He’s like a goal magnet vs the big boys. I think he deserves a start, especially after the confidence boost of last game, and if he underperforms in the first 50-60 minutes we just throw Gameiro on for him. Moreover, Torres vs Masche competing in the box for a header is an advantage we’d love.

    2) Carrasco starts – Carrasco, aka the one man counterattack, is very much an unfinished product, yes. He loses the ball and/or tries to do too much sometimes, yes. But he is there when our team is unable to create enough, coming out of nowhere with an incredible dribble or long shot. And Barcelona’s right back is…? Both Sergi Roberto and Aleix Vidal could get devoured by any decent winger, so for us not to play a winger to exploit that would be foolish.

    3) If the first two start, and Griezmann is a given, then we only have room for 3 CMs. Koke and Gabi are a given too, I think, so either Saul or Augusto could clinch the last spot. Saul would make us better going forward, Augusto would make us better in defense. Either option would be welcome in this game.

    Let’s go!

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    It’s not about the strengh of Real Madrid, it’s more about the weakness of thr others.
    And indeed they were very lucky, especially in UCL, the whole knock-out stage and not just the final, but that doesn’t give me any comfort, in fact, it makes me worry even more.
    I’m alos worried from the refs, that’s what I meant with the “outside help”, how many controversial calls did they benfit from already, in just 4 weeks, 2 offsides goals and one uncalled penalty against them ?!

    I wish I’m wrong about them, but if I knew for sure that a draw tonight will make us finish 2nd and will give RM the title, while a defeat will make us finish 3rd and give the title to Barca then I really wish we lose.
    That’s how much I hate Real Madrid.

    But we can’t know, not in that very early stage, so as you said : we have to fight for every single point.

    Anyway, I think all this debate is meaningless, because we gonna win tonight, inshallah.

  • Kris

    Hmm…. The invincible Real Madrid.

  • Kris

    You out of everybody on this thread saying they’d prefer 0 points over 1 point. Now that Real Madrid have dropped points, have your feelings changed or do you still prefer a loss over a draw?

    The season is still so fucking young, man. Everybody will drop points especially after the shitshow towards the end of last season. I will gladly take a point over 0 point, just because it means we are not the only ones dropping points. Even if Real Madrid were to win today, I would still have taken 1 point because it would mean something on head-to-head breaker on the Liga table, if not anything else. But, I also understand your disdain for Real Madrid, but I say we focus on us and not anybody else.