Barcelona will be up against bitter rivals Atletico Madrid on Sunday in La Liga at the Vicente Calderon. The last season’s winners had to endure a forgetful week, after being thrashed 4-0 by French side Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League, and later struggling to get three points against relegation-threatened Leganes at the weekend.
The two teams have met three times this season, once in the Liga which ended in a 1-1 draw and twice in the semi-finals of the Copa Del Rey where Barca got the better of Diego Simeone’s men on one occasion and played out a 1-1 draw in the second leg. However, the Los Rojiblancos have been terrific in recent weeks and will be coming into the match on the back of a 4-2 win over German side Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.
Barcelona will be hoping to capitalise on Real Madrid’s 2-1 loss to Valencia in their midweek fixture and go top of the standings, even if it is temporary. Manager Luis Enrique is under huge pressure from all quarters, with his team selection and the tactics coming under scrutiny due to the recent poor results. He will have to cope without the services of Javier Mascherano and Aleix Vidal in defence, who are on the treatment table.
Barcelona Line-Up to face Atletico Madrid:
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen (GK)
The German shot-stopper had endured a difficult week after being beaten four times by PSG, but remains the preferred option ahead of Jasper Cillessen, but will need to be on top of his game against Antoine Griezmann, Kevin Gameiro, and co.
Sergi Roberto (RB)
The Spaniard has become a weak link for the defending champions after beginning the season brilliantly. However, with Aleix Vidal unavailable, Roberto will retain his place.
Gerard Pique (CB)
Shocking exclusion for the Leganes game and as a result, the manager had to face much ire from all corners. Should rightly be reinstated for the Atletico game in place of Jeremy Mathieu.
Samuel Umtiti (CB)
The summer signing will partner Pique in the match on Sunday with the experienced Javier Mascherano ruled out due to an injury.
Jordi Alba (LB)
Was surprisingly left out against Leganes but Alba must be reinstated to the playing XI ahead of Lucas Digne. The Spaniard remains one of the key attacking outlets for Barcelona but will have his work cut-out against the impressive Yannick Ferreira Carrasco.
Sergio Busquets (DM)
The Spaniard was dropped in favour of Gomes against Leganes but should return to the starting line-up for the weekend’s fixture. Enrique will be hoping that the 28-year old steps up against Atletico.
Ivan Rakitic (CM)
Rakitic remains a better option in the midfield for Enrique ahead of the likes of Denis Suarez and Andre Gomes and we believe he will hold onto his place for such a pivotal clash.
Andres Iniesta (CM)
The veteran midfielder still remains a key cog for the Blaugrana in the midfield and his creativity and technical brilliance is of much importance while facing Simeone’s men. Expect him to replace Rafinha in the playing XI.
Lionel Messi (RW)
The little magician was Barcelona’s saviour against Leganes, scoring both the goals for the Catalans and will be the main threat once again against the Los Colchoneros.
The Brazilian hasn’t been in great form of late and with the off-field news of his trials making rounds, he will be looking to stay focused and give his team the much-needed impetus in the final third.
Luis Suarez (ST)
The former Liverpool man has blown hot and cold in recent weeks, but Enrique will need him firing on all cylinders if Barcelona are to do any sort of damage to Atletico.
Here’s how they may line-up against Atletico Madrid: