Barcelona welcomes Atletico Madrid to the Camp Nou for a crunch La Liga clash on Tuesday and will hope to come away with an important three points against Los Colchoneros. The Catalans have failed both their litmus tests after the La Liga restart and have played out draws against Sevilla and Celta Vigo.
Atletico Madrid is currently third in the La Liga table and Diego Simeone's men have not had the best of seasons themselves. Encounters between these two Spanish giants are generally closely contested and often end with Barcelona winning by a narrow margin.
Barcelona hosts Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid in a must-win encounter
Barcelona's draw against Celta Vigo has handed Real Madrid an excellent opportunity to open up a lead over their arch-rivals with a win over Espanyol later today. The Catalans are already on the backfoot and cannot afford any more mishaps for the remainder of the La Liga season.
Atletico Madrid is a well-drilled outfit and Diego Simeone's tenacity will present Barcelona with difficult challenges all over the pitch. Quique Setien will have to devise a specific plan to win this particular tactical battle but it will be up to Barcelona's superstars as well to overcome their talented rivals across the pitch.
When the two sides met at the Wanda Metropolitano in December for the reverse fixture, a late Lionel Messi goal gave Barcelona a much-needed victory. Barcelona tends to struggle against Atletico Madrid and will need to put in an exemplary performance to defeat Diego Simeone's side.
With so many modern-day behemoths of the game involved, this fixture is set to witness some fantastic individual battles across the pitch. Here, we look at five of the best.
#5 Jordi Alba vs Kieran Trippier
Neither Barcelona nor Atletico Madrid is particularly dependent on wingers to provide width in attack. In Jordi Alba and Kieran Trippier, both sides have pacy full-backs who can trouble the opposition in the final third.
On Tuesday, Barcelona's first-choice left-back will be up against the former Tottenham right-back and the outcome of this battle will determine which side remains the dominant force on the flanks. Barcelona has relied heavily on Jordi Alba in the absence of Ousmane Dembele and will look to the left-back yet again against Atletico Madrid.
Kieran Trippier, on the other hand, possesses the ability to use his pace to aid his defensive skills as well. Jordi Alba will find a few roadblocks in the final third and Trippier will be the first among them.
#4 Gerard Pique vs Alvaro Morata
Gerard Pique is Barcelona's leader in defence and will undoubtedly be hurting after the goals his side conceded against Celta Vigo. The Catalan veteran gave away the free-kick that resulted in Iago Aspas' stunning goal and will be looking to make amends against Atletico Madrid this Tuesday.
Barcelona will need Gerard Pique to be at his best against Alvaro Morata at the Camp Nou. The Spanish striker can be deadly in the final third and will be Diego Simeone's most potent attacking threat alongside Joao Felix. Morata also knows how to score against Barcelona and will be anxious to get on the scoresheet on Tuesday.
#3 Luis Suarez vs Jose Gimenez
Jose Gimenez is arguably the most important player in Diego Simeone's lineup and will go up against his compatriot Luis Suarez as Barcelona takes on Atletico Madrid later this week.
Luis Suarez will face one of the best defenders in La Liga and will find no room for error against Atletico Madrid. Gimenez is known to step up to the task on the biggest of stages and will relish the prospect of dealing with his fellow Uruguayan from Barcelona.
Luis Suarez had a rare good game for Barcelona this weekend and his two excellent goals will surely help his confidence. Jose Gimenez cannot afford to show any mercy to his fellow countryman as Atletico Madrid look to thwart Barcelona this week.
#2 Sergio Busquets vs Joao Felix
Barcelona will welcome Sergio Busquets back to the starting eleven against Atletico Madrid. The Catalans sorely missed the Barcelona veteran's presence of mind as Iago Aspas ran riot for Celta Vigo in the second half this weekend.
Busquets brings a sense of calm to Barcelona's midfield and his experience will be necessary against Los Colchoneros. The midfielder will be tasked with nullifying the presence of the electrifying Joao Felix and an engaging battle is sure to take place in the middle of the pitch.
The Portuguese forward has been Diego Simeone's chief creator and destroyer in the final third and will likely be the source of most of Barcelona's problems. In Sergio Busquets, Barcelona is equipped with the ideal shield to stop Joao Felix.
#1 Lionel Messi vs Jan Oblak
Barcelona captain Lionel Messi will face one of the toughest tests of the season as he goes up against one of the most talented goalkeepers in La Liga. Jan Oblak has been Atletico Madrid's saving grace this season.
The third-placed side has been uncharacteristically shoddy in defence but Oblak continues to stand tall between the posts for Diego Simeone. The Slovenian international is rarely caught out of position and is known for his spectacular shot-stopping skills.
Lionel Messi is likely to get the better of Atletico Madrid's defence on more than one occasion but will find that Jan Oblak is his most formidable hurdle. The Barcelona talisman is only a single strike away from his 700th official goal and will hope to reach the milestone against one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
Published 28 Jun 2020, 16:55 IST