The Hard Tackle lists three players who can singlehandedly influence the tie when Barcelona and Atletico Madrid clash on Sunday.
La Liga action has resumed on Sunday, with RCD Mallorca and Deportivo Alaves locking horns. The action on the day will end with a blockbuster fixture, with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid meeting at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.
Barcelona’s defence of the league title has not gone as well as they would have envisioned. The reigning champions are seven points behind the table-topping pair of Real Madrid and Girona, although they have a game in hand. But Xavi Hernandez will be concerned about his team’s recent performances.
The visitors, like Barcelona, are seven points behind the two clubs at the summit. But unlike the hosts, Atletico Madrid will have another game in hand on the teams in the upper echelons of the table after Sunday. The Colchoneros come into this weekend’s fixture on the back of a four-game winning run which has seen them scoring goals at will.
Barcelona and Atletico Madrid cannot afford to drop points, considering the gap between them and their usual rivals and the surprise package of La Liga this term. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle explores a list of three players who can swing the game’s balance with their displays this weekend.
Our list begins with an offensive-minded outlook, starting with a player from the visiting team. We are talking about Antoine Griezmann, who has rediscovered his world-class levels since rejoining Atletico Madrid from Barcelona.
The French international has been arguably the best player in La Liga since the start of the 2023/24 season. Griezmann is still longing for his maiden league crown, but Atletico Madrid fans cannot fault his commitment or consistency.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup winner has been among the top scorers in La Liga this season, with only Jude Bellingham finding the back of the net more often than him thus far. Meanwhile, the veteran attacker’s performances have captured the attention of many high-profile clubs, including Chelsea and Manchester United.
But the 32-year-old is content at Atletico Madrid and does not want to move anytime soon. Meanwhile, Griezmann will be eager to add to his tally, and if that happens, the visitors will fancy their chances of handing Barcelona a defeat that will crush the champions’ hopes of retaining their title.
The offensive theme continues, and our next pick comes from Barcelona. We are talking about Robert Lewandowski, who will be eager to finally find a rhythm this season and guide Barcelona to the start of a long winning run against Atletico Madrid.
The Polish international is the Pichichi Trophy holder after ending 2022/23 season as the top scorer in La Liga. But he has struggled to perform anywhere near his best levels this term, managing only eight goals in 16 appearances thus far.
Injuries have also impacted Lewandowski’s performances this season, and he has struggled to find the rhythm to perform at his best. But the 35-year-old is a man for the big occasions and tends to reserves his best for fixtures like the one on Sunday.
With Barcelona not finding the back of the net more than twice in 13 games, they desperately need the former Bayern Munich talisman to rediscover his best. If that happens on Sunday, there is no reason why the home side cannot clinch the maximum quota of points at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.
Rodrigo De Paul
Speaking of Robert Lewandowski, Atletico Madrid might have the solution to continue the Barcelona striker’s frustrations on Sunday. We are talking about Rodrigo De Paul, the Argentine midfielder.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup winner has changed his style of play since joining Atletico Madrid. Once a creative powerhouse who could regularly find the back of the net, he has become a midfield destroyer of sorts, moulding his game to Diego Simeone’s liking.
The 29-year-old is a maverick who can be a destroyer on his best days, producing niggling challenges that annoy the opposition players. If that side of his game comes to the fore, Atletico Madrid will go long periods without conceding a goal. That can, in turn, be the bedrock for the away side to get the better of Barcelona this weekend.