After a two week international break, FC Barcelona will travel to the Wanda Metropolitano for the first time in almost a year to face Atlético Madrid. It will undoubtedly be a riveting fixture, pitting two Spanish giants against each other.
Date and kick-off time: Sunday, November 22, 2020, 21:00 CET
Stadium: Wanda Metropolitano
Competition: La Liga, Matchday 10
Referee: Jose Luis Munuera Montero
December 1st, 2019; it was a rainy night in Madrid. A gruelling match looked set to finish level-pegging until Barça had an 86th-minute counter-attack. Lionel Messi darted down the pitch, played a quick one-two with Luis Suárez, and slotted it into the bottom left corner. It was a goal so exceptional that even the fierce Diego Simeone had to offer his applause.
Flash-forward one year, and the Catalans have the opportunity to become the first side to win two La Liga games against Atlético Madrid in the Wanda Metropolitano. But can they do it?
Coming off an international break filled with drama and more positive COVID-19 tests, this could be a consequential fixture in deciding this year’s La Liga. Barcelona are currently sitting eighth in the table and are coming off a dominant 5-2 victory over Real Betis, but their defence continues to struggle.
Their performances under Ronald Koeman have been inconsistent at best, and this is undoubtedly a must-win game. The Blaugrana’s last match after an international break resulted in a 1-0 away loss to Getafe CF, a team whose grit and resolve rivals Atlético’s.
Atlético Madrid, currently third place in La Liga, have been a revelation so far this season and remain the only undefeated team in the Spanish League. In fact, they are one of only four undefeated teams in Europe’s top five leagues. In addition to their league-leading defence conceding only two goals thus far, Los Rojiblancos are also second in goals scored.
Their last match before the break was a 4-0 victory against newly promoted Cádiz, and they will be hoping to pounce on a Barça side that are still struggling to find their feet.
What can we expect from Barcelona?
As aforementioned, this is an important test for the Garnet and Blue. Having already lost to Real Madrid, Barça need a resounding victory against a big rival. Although the 2020-21 season is still around a quarter-way through, the league table is already beginning to take shape. Barcelona will want to keep their fate in their own hands, rather than rely on league leaders to slip by their own doing.
“Tomorrow is a very important match, and we must get a good result.”Ronald Koeman | Pre-match Press Conference
Ronald Koeman is yet to settle on a favoured starting lineup, but his selection will be made easier by injuries to Sergio Busquets, Ronald Araujo, and Ansu Fati. Frenkie De Jong and Miralem Pjanić look set to fill in the double pivot and will hope to build upon their promising performances together.
Ansu Fati out, Philippe Coutinho in; Ronald Koeman has some decisions to make. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)
Still, there are questions considering who will start at right-back between Sergi Roberto and Sergiño Dest and whether Philippe Coutinho will be thrust back into the starting lineup after a month-long injury hiatus.
“We’re happy that Coutinho has returned without problems. He’s a very important player. We will talk to the medical staff to see if he is fit enough to play tomorrow.”RONALD KOEMAN | PRE-MATCH PRESS CONFERENCE
Lionel Messi was recently caught in yet another media-storm as teammate Antoine Griezmann’s uncle made damning remarks about the Argentine. Sunday night is the perfect opportunity for the forwards to flex their rapport.
Barça’s leaky defence will have to be on their A-game against a threatening Atlético attack who can easily capitalize on Gerard Piqué and Clément Lenglet’s lack of pace.
Although Koeman has some line-up issues, it’s safe to assume the Catalans will be on the front foot. The question is, what will their opponents do?
What can we expect from Atlético?
Atlético Madrid have not lost a La Liga game since February, and are playing some of their best football in recent memory. Manager Diego Simeone has tinkered with different lineups this season, showcasing more flexibility and tactical variance than in years past, and it’s paid dividends. Their always-staunch defence is now paired with a lethal attack, only second to Barcelona in terms of shots per game this season.
Luis Suárez has been integral to the Rojiblancos this season, scoring five goals in six appearances, but he will be missing the chance to face off against his old club due to recently testing positive for COVID-19.
As much as Culés wanted to see Suarez feature against them tomorrow, they will have to wait till the second half of the season. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)
Forward Diego Costa is match fit after a long injury layoff, but he will probably spend the majority of the game on the bench. Youngster João Felix has been on top form so far this season and is someone Barça should keep a close eye on. Marcos Llorente, transformed into a more attack-oriented midfielder, has been another revelation. The 25-year-old’s spearheading runs and dynamism have been vital in their attack.
Their centre midfield is led by Koke, Saúl Ñíguez, Héctor Herrera, and Lucas Torreira. However, the latter two will also be missing the match due to injury and a positive COVID-19 test, respectively. Simeone may opt for a more robust and defensive-minded midfield to counter Barça’s creative front four.
Simeone’s defence will be without Mario Hermoso, Stephan Savić, and Šime Vrsaljko, but mainstay José Giménez and Felipe will fill in admirably.
The main question facing Simeone is concerning how he will approach the fixture tactically. Will he adopt a more defensive mentality and establish a low-block, something Barça have had trouble facing in recent months, or play more openly and attacking?
Player to watch
There is little stopping João Felix this season. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)
Although Marcos Llorente deserves an honourable mention, 21-year-old João Felix is the opposition’s player to watch. The Portuguese international has thrived under a more creative role this season and is at the cornerstone of almost everything Atlético do in attack.
In ten appearances this season, he has tallied seven goals and two assists. The talismanic forward is also averaging 55.7 touches per game compared to 35.3 last season, showcasing his increased involvement in the team setup. Whether Atlético sit back and stay compact or play more openly, Felix will have plenty of opportunities against this poor Barça defence.
Previous games: WWDWL
Barcelona 5-2 Real Betis | La Liga
Barcelona 2-1 Dynamo Kyiv | UEFA Champions League
Deportivo Alavés 1-1 Barcelona |La Liga
Juventus 0-2 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League
Barcelona 1-3 Real Madrid | La Liga
Position in La Liga
11 points in 7 games
3 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses
15 Goals Scored, 8 Goals Conceded
+7 Goal Difference
Previous games: WDWWW
Atlético Madrid 4-0 Cádiz | La Liga
Lokomotiv Moscow 1-1 Atlético Madrid | UEFA Champions League
Osasuna 1-3 Atlético Madrid | La Liga
Atlético Madrid 3-2 RB Salzburg | UEFA Champions League
Atlético Madrid 2-0 Real Betis | La Liga
Position in La Liga
17 points in 7 games
5 wins, 2 draws
17 Goals Scored, 2 Goals Conceded
+15 Goal Difference
Barcelona 2-2 Atlético Madrid | La Liga 19/20
Barcelona 2-3 Atlético Madrid | Spanish Supercup 2020
Atlético Madrid 0-1 Barcelona | La Liga 19/20
Barcelona 2-0 Atlético Madrid | La Liga 18/19
Atlético Madrid 1-1 Barcelona | La Liga 18/19
- Atlético Madrid are undefeated in their last 23 La Liga games, their longest defeat-less run in the competition and the longest current streak in Europe’s top five leagues
- Barcelona have only won one of their last five La Liga games, two losses, two draws, 5-2 victory against Real Betis
- In 17 appearances, Messi has scored 12 goals against Atlético
- Diego Simeone has failed to beat Barça in 17 La Liga games, losing 11 times and drawing six.
Injured: Ansu Fati (knee), Sergio Busquets (knee), Samuel Umtiti (knee), Ronald Araújo (muscle injury)
Roberto • Piqué • Lenglet • Alba
Pjanić • de Jong
Trincão • Messi • Dembélé
Coach: Ronald Koeman
Injured: Luis Suárez, Hector Herrera, Lucas Torreira, Stephan Savić, Šime Vrsaljko, Manu Sánchez, Mario Hermoso
Trippier • Giménez • Felipe • Lodi
Llorente • Koke • Kondogbia • Saúl
Correa • Felix
Coach: Diego Simeone
This enticing fixture will surely live up to expectations. Assuming Atlético opt for a more reserved approach, Barça will struggle to break them down, but they can still manage to score a goal. Injuries and COVID-19 tests look set to play a decisive factor in this match, but Atlético should still be able to expose Barça’s poor backline. It looks like Simeone may earn his first La Liga victory against the Catalans.
Barça Universal Prediction: 2-1 victory for Atlético Madrid
Copa del Rey final preview: Predicted Barcelona lineup against Athletic Bilbao
Barcelona continued their newfound pattern of turning off in the big games. Once again, the Catalans failed to turn up on a Clasico night, failing to pick up even a single point.
The worst way to head into a cup final is with a defeat in one of the biggest games of the season. Coming off a loss that potentially loses the title is not the way Koeman would have wanted to enter this week. However, Barcelona,s inability to turn up when it matters is now getting serious. It is far beyond the stages of misfortunes and well into the path of being a fact.
This is the managers only guaranteed shot at silverware. Yet, heading into this game, the atmosphere in the Catalan capital is nothing short of chaos. Sources close to the club are whining about the referee once again, days before the game. Jordi Alba’s weak mentality has once again come to the forefront with his latest leaked conversation with Gerard Pique that shows him giving up even before stepping on the field.
Barcelona needs to step out of this shadow of excuses. Being one of the biggest clubs in Europe mandates winning even in the most adverse conditions. It necessitates believing in oneself and the team more than anything else. Barcelona have choked in the final of the Supercup, in the game against Juventus, the first leg against PSG and both El Clasicos. It is high time they put those losses behind them and show the world they have not forgotten how to win trophies. Here is how Barcelona could lineup against Atheltic Bilbao.
Starting with the gloves on the night will once again be Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The German has once again come under scrutiny in recent weeks. If there is ever a chance for the goalkeeper to prove that he is invaluable on such big nights, Saturday night is that opportunity.
Gerard Pique’s participation continues to be under a heavy cloud of doubt. The Spaniard has still not recuperated completely, and rushing him would not be wise. Additionally, Sergino Dests rather meek showing against Real Madrid has Ronald Koeman contemplating a return to the 4-3-3 system for the upcoming clash. The 3-5-2 was never built to last in the first place, anyway. That said, Ronald Araujo and Clement Lenglet will be the starters in central defence.
While the Uruguayan has recently returned from injury, he still showed glimpses of his extraordinary pre-injury form once again. Lenglet, on the other hand, is finally coming into a confident frame of mind. The Frenchman never looked the same since the humiliating defeat to Bayern Munich. Now finally, he is once again defending with a much better mindset.
Meanwhile, Oscar Mingueza is coming off a textbook performance against a difficult real Madrid side. While a case can be made for Sergi Roberto, not rewarding the Spanish youngster after such a tremendous performance would be unfair. Moreover, Roberto is just returning from injury. A direct start in a cup final may not be the route Koeman wants to go down. That said, Mingueza could well start at right-back on the night.
Jordi Alba has been one of the best left-backs of the season, yet there is a massive sentiment that he shouldn’t start on the night. Watching a senior member of the dressing room talk so pessimistically ahead of a massive game is terrible news, both for the team and the fans. Yet, one knows that the Spaniard will start, mainly owing to the back of any able backups. He will be crucial, no doubt, however, the weak mentality is a matter of serious concern.
Sergio Busquets will start as the defensive midfielder at Estadio de la Cartuja. Up against the likes of Dani and Raul Garcia in midfield, and Inaki Williams constantly looking to break, Busquets will have to be inch-perfect with every step.
Frenkie de Jong will start in front of the veteran midfielder. Once again back in midfield duties, the 23-year-old will be crucial for the Catalans penetration into opposition territory. His guile and vision will be key on the night.
Pedri struggled in the first period of the Clasico yet came back stronger after a rough patch. The 18-year-old is one of the most promising prospects in world football. Once again, his consistency will be put to the test on Saturday. It could well be Pedri’s vision that is the difference between the two sides on Saturday.
Antoine Griezmann made the difference when these two sides met last, and everything signals that he may get his start again. The Frenchman did not get the chance to start the game against Madrid and will be eager to return in style.
Ousmane Dembele has had a renewed, though not very successful, stint as a target man this season. His pace has been the fatal spearhead for so many oppositions. Yet, a rather low conversion ratio is the thorn in the heel. If Barcelona is to walk away with a trophy, Dembele cannot be wasteful in front of the goal.
Lionel Messi will undoubtedly start in the forward line, aiming to win his first silverware in two seasons. The Argentine had a rather quiet outing is yet another Clasico and will be keen to shut critics once again with a game-defining performance. One of Lionel Messi’s greatest ever goals came against Athletic Bilbao in a cup final. Will Saturday bring more of the same?
Griezmann · Messi · Dembele
Pedri · Busquets · de Jong
Alba · Lenglet · Araujo · Dest
Ilaix Moriba has become to go-to man for Ronald Koeman in any midfield crisis. His never say die spirit and no-nonsense attitude have earned him a special place in the side. Moreover, he is a gifted young talent that deserves every minute he plays.
Riqui Puig would be another option to up the tempo of the game in the second half. The youngster could come on for Pedri and provide an immediate impact as he often has.
Fransisco Trincao and Martin Braithwaite could also be able weapons for the managers towards the latter part of the game.