Atletico de Madrid host FC Barcelona this Sunday in one of the blockbuster LaLiga fixtures of the season
Atletico de Madrid host Barcelona on Sunday with both teams ready for what has become one of LaLiga's most significant and dramatic fixtures. Reigning champions Barça go into the game joint-top of the LaLiga Santander standings with Real Madrid, with Atletico just three points behind in fourth position.
Both Ernesto Valverde’s men and Diego Simeone's side have come through challenges over the first months of the season and now look primed for a fixture which has often been key in deciding the destination of the LaLiga title through recent seasons.
Atletico undertook a big squad overhaul this summer, but have kept their trademark defensive solidity with just nine goals conceded in 14 games. Jan Oblak is on course for a record fifth successive Zamora prize as LaLiga’s best goalkeeper, while new defenders Kieran Trippier, Felipe and Renan Lodi have all settled in well. Brazil international Lodi even grabbed his first LaLiga goal in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Granada.
Alvaro Morata has been Los Colchoneros’ goalscoring star through recent weeks, with the Spain international scoring in four consecutive LaLiga games before being unlucky not to continue the run at Granada last weekend. Also impressive has been strike partner Angel Correa, while young Portuguese starlet Joao Felix returned from injury last weekend.
Atletico remain unbeaten in front of their own fans at the Wanda Metropolitano, while away form has been an issue for Barça this season. The Catalans have already lost at Athletic Club, Granada and Levante, but did get three points on the road last weekend when winning 2-1 at Leganes thanks to set-piece goals from Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal.
Blaugrana talisman Lionel Messi’s return from injury in September has, unsurprisingly, helped steady Barça’s form. The Argentine has eight goals and five assists across his first eight LaLiga Santander outings, helping his team to become LaLiga’s top scorers so far with 35 goals in their first 13 games.
Also impressing for Barca this season have been new midfielder Frenkie de Jong and teenage sensation Ansu Fati. Another big summer arrival Antoine Griezmann is still settling into his new environment, with each of his four LaLiga goals so far coming at the Camp Nou. The former rojiblanco hero will be keen to make his mark in the game on his return to the capital.
History has been on Barça’s side in this fixture through recent seasons, with Simeone yet to record a LaLiga victory over the Catalans, although May 2014’s 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou secured the title for his team. 12 months later Messi scored the only goal as Barça wrested the trophy back and the Argentine has since taken his phenomenal record to 24 goals in 23 LaLiga meetings with Atletico [along with 10 yellow cards, more than against any other opponent].
The last two games between the teams at the Wanda Metropolitano have been close-fought 1-1 draws. Atletico went ahead each time through Saul Ñiguez and Diego Costa, but Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele grabbed late equalisers for the visitors.
It all points to another tight and exciting encounter on Sunday. Will Messi stretch his amazing personal record against Atletico, or can Simeone finally pull off a LaLiga win over the blaugrana at the 16th attempt? Tune in to find out!
SIX OF THE BEST: THE ATLETICO DE MADRID VS FC BARCELONA RIVALRY HAS ALWAYS PRODUCED BLOCKBUSTER GAMES
Atletico de Madrid against FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday evening is set to continue a tradition of exciting spectacles which more often than not have a big impact on the season’s LaLiga title race.
We’ve looked back over the last decade at the most entertaining Atletico v Barça clashes, remembering the personalities and events which have marked one of LaLiga's most dramatic fixtures.
“GODIN’S HEADER WINS THE TITLE FOR ATLETICO” (Barça 1-1 Atleti, May 17th 2014)
One of the most dramatic LaLiga title races in history brought Atletico to the Camp Nou on the final day. A draw would be enough for Diego Simeone’s men to be champions in this ‘winner takes all’ encounter, while Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino’s side needed a win to grab top spot at the finish.
Atletico started in the worst possible way, watching Diego Costa and Arda Turan succumb to injuries within the first 15 minutes and then Alexis Sanchez whacking in an unstoppable volley from a tight angle to put Barça 1-0 up.
Nothing could stop the fiercely determined visitors however, and Godin headed in Gabi’s corner early in the second half. The whole stadium applauded on the final whistle, acknowledging Atletico’s first LaLiga trophy in 18 years.
“MESSI’S AMAZING FREE KICK THE DIFFERENCE” (Atleti 1-2 Barça, February 26th 2012)
Lionel Messi had an early goal ruled out for handball before Dani Alves opened the scoring from close range for Pep Guardiola’s side just after the half-hour mark. Atletico hit back though with a technically excellent volley from Radamel Falcao, and things remained in the balance until the final moments.
There seemed little immediate danger when Barça got a free kick way out near the left-hand sideline with ten minutes remaining, but Messi flighted an inch-perfect free kick up and over then rojiblanco goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to once again break the hearts of the Calderon faithful.
“AGÜERO’S LAST-MINUTE WINNER SEALS HISTORIC WIN” (Atleti 4-3 Barça, March 1st 2009)
One of the greatest nights at the old Vicente Calderon stadium saw Thierry Henry and Messi put Barça 2-0 up, before Diego Forlan halved the deficit from long range and Sergio Agüero equalised early in the second half.
Eidur Gudjohnsen then teed up Henry for his second of the game, only for Forlan to make it 3-3 from the penalty spot. With the home crowd roaring, and just one minute remaining, Agüero burst through Carles Puyol’s tackle and finished nervelessly into the bottom corner to seal a historic comeback victory.
“SUAREZ FINDS THE BREAKTHROUGH” (Barça 2-0 Atleti, April 6th 2019)
The most recent meeting between the teams at the Camp Nou last April saw second-placed Atletico really needing to win to close the gap on LaLiga leaders Barça but receive a blow when centre-forward Diego Costa was red carded midway through the first half.
The 10 men redoubled their efforts and the game remained in the balance until, with just five minutes remaining, Barça number nine Luis Suarez fired a superb opener to the net from 20 yards out. Blaugrana talisman Lionel Messi soon added his 24th goal in 23 LaLiga games against Atletico to wrap up a 2-0 win, which moved Barça 11 points clear in the LaLiga table, effectively handing them the title.
“ATLETI’S NINE MEN ALMOST NICK A POINT” (Barça 2-1 Atleti, January 30th 2016)
January 2016’s meeting at the Camp Nou was also key in that year’s title race, and also super eventful. A fired-up Atletico deservedly went ahead on just 10 minutes through Koke’s excellent finish. Barça gradually worked their way into the game, however, and Messi expertly equalised before Suarez put the blaugrana side ahead as Luis Enrique's side turned the screw.
Rojiblanco left-back Filipe Luis was sent off for a challenge on Messi just before the break, with Diego Godin picking up a second yellow early in the second half. Even with nine players, Diego Simeone's men kept battling and goalkeeper Jan Oblak even went forward late on to try – unsuccessfully – to nick an unlikely equaliser.
“MESSI CELEBRATES THE BIRTH OF HIS SON IN STYLE” (Atleti 1-2 Barça, September 12th 2015)
There was a surprise pre-game when Lionel Messi was named as a substitute after the birth of his second son Mateo the previous evening. After Suarez had hit the crossbar from a tight angle, Atletico veteran Fernando Torres shocked the Camp Nou with an opportunistic strike, only for Neymar to arrow in a long-range free kick to equalise.
It was then - as so often in this fixture - all about Messi, who came off the bench and deftly finished past Oblak for 2-1 with time almost up, dedicating his goal to his day-old son.Modified 21 Dec 2019, 01:11 IST