19th September, 22:30 IST
Atletico Madrid might not be at par with the other half of Madrid, but of late they have been more successful in tormenting Barcelona more than their richer and more illustrious cousins. FC Barcelona has had a relatively bad start to their season whereas the Los Colchoneros’ start isn’t anything short of perfect. Starting their first game at home against Sporting de Gijon, El Atleti scored four goals and maintained the rhythm by snatching three crucial points from Athletic Bilbao. Finally they failed to capture all three points from their recently concluded Europa League match away at Greece. Messi and co., on the other hand, have had quite a contrasting start. After winning away at El Sardinero, the Champions were handed their first home defeat in a long long time by newly promoted Hércules. The Catalans made up for their shock loss by thrashing Greek champions Panathanaikos in midweek.
It’s been quite some time since Barça has won (Spanish League) at the Vicente Calderón. This in itself is an indication as to how good the Europa League champions are. Few things will be in favour of the mighty Catalans. First being that Atletico played their Europa League match as late as Thursday and had little time to rest whereas Barça won theirs on Tuesday. Secondly, the home team’s morale might just have taken a blow after a shock defeat against Aris Thessaloniki and Barcelona just played one of the best matches of the 2010-11 campaign.
Former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid manager, Radomir Antić is reported to have said that the Catalan side has the edge because they have had a few extra hours to prepare. Quite rightly so. Nonetheless, Atletico manager Quique Sánchez Flores has good news. Star striker, Sergio Aguero still has a chance to make it to the Barcelona match, after he injured his ankle last week against Athletic Bilbao. With Diego Forlan already leading the race for the Pichichi, the host’s attack will be quite taxing given the fact that Govou and Cisse showed that Barcelona’s defence isn’t as good as the club’s attack.
Atletico’s main weakness was their defense but the inclusion of Godin has improved it a lot and the young David de Gea is doing justice to the comparisons drawn to St.Iker. Barcelona’s defense hasn’t been up to the mark. Carles Puyol nursed a minor niggle and Pique has a head injury that might just make him think twice before challenging for an aerial ball. Eric Abidal has been highly inconsistent. Against an attack comprising of a World Cup Golden Ball winner, the defense needs to bring out their ‘A’ game. Despite the fact that Abidal isn’t traveling with the squad to Madrid, it won’t be surprising if Maxwell is given a nod ahead of the Frenchman in the future too.
The bright (or maybe even the brightest) point from a Blaugrana point of view is Sergio Busquets. His performance hasn’t been anything short of magnificent. He finally seems to have come of age. Busi has finally evolved from a young and promising La Masia product to an integral part, in one of the most crucial positions, in one of the best teams in the world.
FC Barcelona possible starting line-up:
Valdes, Puyol, Pique, Alves, Maxwell, Xavi, Iniesta, Mascherano, Villa, Messi, Pedro
Atletico Madrid possible starting line-up:
De Gea, Dominguez Soto, Diego Godin, Antonio Lopez, Perea, Assuncao, Raul Garcia, Simao, Reyes/Tiago, Diego Forlan, Sergio Aguero/Camacho/Fran Merida
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
Despite have an array of stars, the limelight eventually is on the diminutive Argentine. He had a rusty outing against Trezeguet & Co. last weekend but in the midweek match against Greek Champion – Panathanaikos, Messi showed as to why he is the best player in the world.
Past five matches:
2009-10: FC Barcelona 5-2 Atletico Madrid; Atletico Madrid 2-1 FC Barcelona
2008-09: FC Barcelona 6-1 Atletico Madrid; Atletico Madrid 4-3 FC Barcelona
2007-08: Atletico Madrid 4-2 FC Barcelona
Atletico 1-2 FC Barcelona