LaLiga 2018-19, Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid: 3 Crucial things to watch out for
Barcelona are going to face Atletico Madrid in a potential title-decider on Saturday night. Barcelona lead the league table with 70 points from 30 matches, whereas Atletico are in the second position with 62 points from 30 games.
Barcelona would virtually ensure that they get their hands on the league title, should they beat Atletico on Saturday. On the other hand, Atletico would still be in the contention if they can win at Camp Nou. Atletico had drawn 1-1 with Barca in their previous league match in November.
However, it is very difficult for any team to come out with points from Barcelona's fortress. We would now look at the 3 crucial factors which might determine the fate of tomorrow's match.
#1 The combination of Messi and Suarez
Facing the deadliest attacking combination in world football might turn out to be an acid test for the Atletico's defence. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have scored 64 goals between them so far in the current season and promise to score more with their ominous form.
They scored a goal each against Villarreal in the injury time to win a point for Barca. Barca were at the brink of defeat, but were saved by their magical attacking duo.
Atletico have a reputation of defending well against big teams but would have to exceed themselves in order to stop Barca from scoring tomorrow. They would have to park the bus near their penalty box at times, and the likes of Diego Godin, Gimenez and Thomas would have to be at their very best.
#2 Atletico should play counter-attacking football
Atletico are no pushovers as an attacking team either, as they have quality footballers like Antoine Griezmann, Alvaro Morata and Diego Costa in their line-up. However, Morata may miss the match tomorrow despite returning to training earlier today. His absence should be a blow to Atletico's chances.
Griezmann has 19 goals and nine assists from 41 matches this season, and again promises to trouble the Barca defence. Costa, on the other hand, has scored five goals in 20 matches for Atletico this season, but remained plagued by injuries. He is again a doubtful starter in tomorrow's match.
Moreover, Griezmann prefers to play with the ball on his feet and have teammates around himself in the middle and final thirds. Morata is also not a counter-attacking striker and prefers to have balls inside the opposition penalty box for tapping them in.
Still, Atletico boss Diego Someone should opt to play counter-attacking football against Barca. The current league leaders have looked vulnerable against counter-attacking teams like Sevilla and Valencia, and might again do so against top players like Griezmann and Costa.
Moreover, Griezmann might also be given some defensive duties to perform, as he might have to drop down in order to stop Messi's runs through the inside-right channel.
If Diego Costa plays tomorrow, he might also trouble Barca with his robust runs and aerial prowess.
#3 Barca's set-piece prowess
Barca have scored quite a few goals from free-kicks in the last few matches. Messi scored a wonderful goal with a chipped free-kick against Espanyol. On a few other occasions, the likes of Gerard Pique chipped in with some headed goals from free-kicks taken by Messi.
Atletico would have to defend deep against Barca tomorrow, but they can not afford to concede too many free-kicks around their penalty box either. Atletico might actually try to score a goal or two from set-pieces themselves, as they have very good headers like Diego Godin and Gimenez, and a very good free-kick expert like Griezmann in their line-up.