After seventeen games into to La Liga, Barcelona is going to close the first leg of their league fixtures with a showpiece at the Camp Nou. The last time Atleti met Barcelona in the Camp Nou was the title decider and the last game of the previous season. The game ended a 1-1 draw in favor of Atleti snatching the title from the clutches of the home side and Barca will be looking forward to avenge that draw which was as good as a defeat this Sunday. Overall, Atleti had the better of Barca last season as they also knocked out Barcelona in the Champion’s league. Barcelona has developed a surging rivalry with Atleti in the recent times and this fixture thus becomes all the more important for the home fans as this is the first time that the visitors are arriving again after the last gasp Liga upset last season.
Both the teams are at the second spot in the table with 38 points, four points behind toppers Real Madrid. It will be a must win situation for both the sides in the bid to keep up with the Capital club in the Liga race.
Both the teams boast a splendid morale as both have had a positive past week. Barca are in high spirits as they return to the Camp Nou again after thrashing Elche three days ago in the same venue in the Copa Del Rey. Atleti visit Catalonya having hammered the League leaders by two goals in the Copa Del Rey round of 16 first leg at the Calderon.
Considering the fact that Barcelona have heavily beaten a lackluster Elche, Enrique wouldn’t mind bringing out his best team against Atleti as he wouldn’t worry about resting the key players for the already won fixture’s return leg in the coming week. Simeone however will have a fatigue constraint as his team needs to defend a two goal lead at the Bernabeu.
Simeone will be looking to settle the game and sit back and defend as one unit resting the key players. The ex-Atleti is keen to find his side still alive in three competitions and has expressed his intent for a tough fight in each as he doesn’t consider any tournament inferior. He said,
“In order to have success in three competitions you need to have a group. The team is competitive and we will take on the opposition in whichever competition”.
He is a great man-manager and though he prefers key players in his team, he doesn’t let his team’s play rely on one or few of these star players. The fact that his Atleit side are seriously challenging for the Liga title despite of losing the likes of Diego Costa and Thibaut Curtois at the start of the season speaks for itself.
Fernando Torres might return to the Camp Nou for the first time after 2012 where he had scored a late goal for Chelsea in a dramatic semi-final second leg. With the tactics of Atleti quite similar to the narrow defending of Chelsea it won’t be a surprise to find Torres at the end of another match winning counter-attack. But Simeone’s last press conference has not hinted Torres’s return to the Camp Nou and it is likely that Mandzukic will be given his debut against Barcelona in the red and white shirt.
Xavi is likely to miss out this fixture due to injury which saw him sidelined even in the Elche game. Atleti will probably field Cani who has freshly arrived to the Calderon on loan from Villareal.
Barcelona face the Atleti side with several tensions within the club management with speculations of a new Presidential Election and the looming rumors of Messi’s dissatisfaction with Enrique’s system. They will be hoping for a positive result against a determined Atleti that is good enough to bring some strength, title hopes and a morale boost to the Catalan club among all the negative speculations.
MATCH DATE: 11th January 2015
VENUE: Camp Nou, Barcelona
REFEREE: Alberto Undiano Mallenco
Barcelona: Bravo; Alves, Piqué, Mathieu, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar
Atlético Madrid: Moyà; Juanfran, Giménez, Godín, Siqueira; Gabi, Tiago, Koke, Arda Turan; Griezmann, Mandzukic
PREDICTION: Barcelona 2-1 Atetico Madrid