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