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