It’s time for another Atletico Madrid Vs Barcelona battle royale. The questions on everyone‘s mind however are: Will Barcelona beat arch rivals Real Madrid to the La Liga title? Is there any limit to what Messi can do on the pitch by himself, let alone in the company of Luis Suarez and Neymar, with whom he has formed one of the most lethal striking partnerships ever known in world football?
Real Madrid fans all over the world, will for a change, be rooting for local rivals Atletico Madrid when Barcelona visit them at the Vicente Calderon stadium this Sunday, the 26th of February. Real Madrid have a one-point advantage over Barcelona with two extra (21) games in hand, and will be hoping that Diego Simeone’s men can beat the Catalans somehow and allow Los Blancos to hold fort .
Ideally an Atletico Madrid win should not surprise anyone. The La Liga go getters, known for their hard hitting style of play, disciplined off the ball movement and blistering counter attacks, trail Barcelona by only six points with both teams having played 23 games already. Atletico Madrid have pulled out surprises on some of the biggest teams in the world and not too long ago beat Barcelona and Bayern Munich to reach the Champions League final, losing eventually to Real Madrid. In other words, Atletico Madrid has quite comfortably achieved the status of one of the strongest teams in the world. There is also no doubt that the team are united in everything they do, be it going forward, or defending and cancelling players out through the lines, or just maintaining constant eye contact and communication with each other on and off the pitch.
While Barcelona undoubtedly are the stronger team, Atletico too have their own qualities up front. Antoine Griezmann, regarded as the best second striker in world football is certain to worry the Barcelona defence all day. Elsewhere, Gabi and Koke, two midfield anchors who orchestrate Atletico’s gameplay, will shut down the tiki taka extravaganza that Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets have displayed in the last decade.
History suggests that this will be a fixture where Atletico will be strategic going forward while Barca are likely to enjoy ball possession. There is a good chance that Messi and Griezmann will both hit the back of the net while the home side will maintain strong defensive lines in their own half. Overall, an entertaining and physical game can be expected at the Vicente de Calderon.
- Atletico Madrid and Barcelona have met a total of 40 times. Barcelona have won 21 of these fixtures while Atletico have won 9, and the remaining 10 fixtures have ended in draws. 28 of these 40 meetings between the two sides have commenced in La Liga, 6 in Copa del Rey 4 in the Champions League, and 2 in the Super Cup.
- Lionel Messi is La Liga’s current highest scorer, with 19 goals so far in this campaign. Atletico’s highest scorer Antoine Griezmann has 9, ten behind Messi
- The two teams drew in their previous fixture held on the 21st of September last year, thanks to an Angel Correa equalizer in the second half
Needless to say, one simply does not watch a Barcelona match and look out for Leo Messi. That would defy human nature. The same can be said of his teammate Luis Suarez, possibly the most lethal No.9 alongside Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski. The Uruguayan goal machine is an absolute nightmare for defenders and usually creates goals out of nowhere. However, it is young centre back Samuel Umtiti who has caught the eye of football lovers recently. The young French international was brought in to partner Gerard Pique at the heart of defence immediately after the most recent Euros. Having established an incredible passing accuracy, he is really making fellow centre back Pique look average these days!
In addition to midfield dictator and captain Gabi, defensive midfielder Saul, widely regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation and possibly one of the best in the world in that position, and French international Griezmann, will be expectedto let all hell loose on the Catalan giants. Griezmann is absolute stealth up front, and like Suarez, can score spectacular goal from open play. No wonder Manchester United have been at his doorsteps for a while now!
One can expect to see a match that is compact, yet physical, and a disciplined Atletico Madrid side might just deny their visitors the chance to go top of the table!