Ronald Koeman's Barcelona will be looking to make it three straight wins in all competitions when they continue their league campaign away to Atletico Madrid on Saturday night. The match between the two Spanish giants is a mouth-watering one with top-of-the-table consequences, but both sides are not without their share of injury woes.
Barcelona will be without the injured trio of Sergio Busquets, Ansu Fati and Ronald Araujo this weekend while French International Samuel Umtiti remains a doubt due to a knee injury.
Atletico Madrid will be without ex-Barcelona striker Luis Suarez, as the Uruguay international tested positive for COVID-19, which means that he will miss out on the chance to face his former club. Summer signing Lucas Torreira is also sidelined with COVID-19 while Stefan Savic, Hector Herrera, Mario Hermoso and Sime Vrsaljko will all miss out due to various fitness issues.
Atletico Madrid have struggled against Barcelona over the years; they are winless in their last 20 games against the Blaugrana. Though the Rojiblancos are unbeaten in seven league games this season, they could have their hands full against Barcelona.
On that note, let's take a look at five key player battles that could be key to the game's outcome.
#5 Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid) vs Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)
The return of German shot-stopper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is a huge boost for Barcelona.
Ter Stegen, who is expected to start against Atletico Madrid, should be pretty fresh after he stayed back at Barcelona over the international break. However, against a resurgent Atletico Madrid, the Blaugrana goalkeeper could face a stern test.
Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid have done more than sitting back and counter-attacking this season, and a lot of credit for that goes to the team's young striker Joao Felix. The young superstar, who is grabbing headlines week after week, has been in terrific form this season. In seven league games, Felix has scored five goals and provided three assists.
Ter Stegen is a world-class keeper, but Joao Felix has demonstrated his ability to score against the big sides. That could make for an enticing contest between the two players.
#4 Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid) vs Miralem Pjanic (Barcelona)
With Sergio Busquets set to miss the Atletico Madrid game, Miralem Pjanic has the perfect chance to try and make a name for himself at his new club. The midfielder is hoping to get his first La Liga start of the season for Barcelona.
Pjanic will look to act as a deep playmaker and help Barcelona open up the rigid Atletico Madrid defence. However, he will have to battle with a certain Saul Niguez in midfield. Niguez's tactical brilliance is near flawless, and the Spaniard rarely gets caught ahead of play and out of position.
The Atletico Madrid player is also capable of breaking opposition lines with quick passes or with runs to exploit space. Miralem Pjanic will have to bring his defensive work-rate to the fore if he hopes to get the better of Saul Niguez in midfield.