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Sep 12, 2015 at 7.30pm UK at Vicente Calderon Stadium


Torres (51')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Neymar (55'), Messi (77')

Preview: Atletico Madrid vs. Barcelona

Sports Mole looks ahead to Saturday's La Liga showdown between title hopefuls Atletico Madrid and reigning champions Barcelona at the Vicente Calderon.

The Vicente Calderon will play host to an early La Liga six-pointer this Saturday as Atletico Madrid host title rivals and reigning champions Barcelona in the Spanish capital.

Both sides boast 100% records after the first two rounds of fixtures in Spain's top flight, but at least one of those must end this weekend.

Atletico Madrid

Diego Simeone the coach of Club Atletico de Madrid celebrates towards his supporters after winning the La Liga after the match between FC Barcelona and Club Atletico de Madrid at Camp Nou on May 17, 2014© Getty Images

The 2013-14 campaign will go down as arguably the finest in the history of Atletico Madrid, with Diego Simeone upsetting the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid on their way to La Liga glory, while also reaching the final of the Champions League.

Having reached such heady heights, it was perhaps no surprise that they struggled to replicate that form last term, particularly considering they lost the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Filipe Luis and top scorer Diego Costa, amongst others.

In the end, they finished 16 points adrift of champions Barca, but there is a feeling this time around that they will be able to push the Catalan giants, and their capital rivals Real, all the way in the title race.

They have certainly started in encouraging fashion. Two wins from two games puts them joint top of the table as one of only four teams still with a 100% record, while they are one of just five sides yet to concede a goal this season.

That being said, Simeone's side were given a scare in the opening match of the campaign. Las Palmas were the visitors to the Vicente Calderon and, while Antoine Griezmann's 16th-minute strike proved to be the difference, the newly-promoted side did hit the woodwork twice in response.

There was nothing fortunate about their most recent outing before the international break, however, as Atletico brushed aside Sevilla in a match that strengthened the thought that they will be looking up towards the top two rather than over their shoulders at fellow Champions League hopefuls this season.

The 3-0 scoreline in Seville was perhaps a little flattering to Atletico, but there was little doubt that they deserved the points, and the fact that Jackson Martinez opened his account for the club - adding to goals from Koke and Gabi - served to make it a very successful day for Simone's side.

The Argentine boss has never lost any of his first three matches of the season while in charge at Atletico, but he is also without a league victory over Barcelona so far, drawing twice and losing on five occasions.

The Rojiblancos have only been beaten twice in 16 home matches this calendar year, although ominously both of those defeats came at the hands of their opponents this weekend.

The hosts may also have one eye on European matters, with a tricky trip to face Galatasaray awaiting them in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Recent form: WW


Lionel Messi of Barcelona is congratulated on scoring their first goal with Dani Alves of Barcelona during the UEFA Super Cup between Barcelona and Sevilla FC at Dinamo Arena on August 11, 2015© Getty Images

A return to the Vicente Calderon will bring happy memories for the Barcelona players. It was here that they clinched the La Liga title last season, with Lionel Messi fittingly getting the only goal of the game.

That wrapped up the first leg of what would become a memorable treble for Luis Enrique's side, with subsequent victories over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey and Juventus in the Champions League completing the achievement.

They haven't quite begun the new campaign in such all-conquering fashion, however, blowing a three-goal lead against Sevilla in the European Super Cup final before eventually prevailing in extra time, and then being soundly beaten by Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup.

The issue of fatigue has already been raised despite the season being only a few weeks old, and the international break is unlikely to have helped in that sense, with key players such as Messi, Neymar and Javier Mascherano travelling on long-haul flights to the United States for a pair of friendlies having also featured in the Copa America this summer.

Speaking of Messi and Neymar, they are yet to find the back of the net in La Liga so far this season, with the fabled front three - including Luis Suarez - managing just one goal between them in the opening two games having notched a record-breaking 122 last season. Barca as a team have only scored twice in the league - their lowest tally at this stage of a season for seven years.

The Catalans were indebted to Thomas Vermaelen in their last match before the international break as the former Arsenal defender, who suffered an injury-ravaged debut campaign at Camp Nou, lashed home the only goal of the game in a 1-0 victory over Malaga.

It wasn't the most convincing win that Barca will pick up this season, but it extended their unbeaten streak in the league to 16 games - a run that includes 14 victories and 11 clean sheets.

Their record on the road is similarly impressive, not being beaten since January and winning 10 of their 11 matches since. In that time they have kept eight clean sheets, including one in each of their last four outings.

Like Atletico, Barca are back in Champions League action next week as they begin their quest to become the first side to successfully defend the title in its current format away to Roma on Wednesday.

Recent form: WW
Recent form (all competitions): WLDWW

Team News

Claudio Bravo for Barcelona on August 18, 2014© Getty Images

Barcelona's La Liga goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has been ruled out for at least a couple of weeks with a calf injury, which means that Marc-Andre ter Stegen will make his long-awaited league debut for the club.

Gerard Pique is still suspended following his red card in the Spanish Super Cup second leg, so Vermaelen should continue to partner Mascherano at the heart of the defence.

Douglas and Dani Alves are also sidelined for the clash, while makeshift right-back Sergi Roberto has emerged as a doubt. Should he not be fit enough to start then Adriano is likely to come in for the visitors.

As for Atletico, Martinez's goal against Sevilla could be enough to earn him a start ahead of Fernando Torres up front alongside Griezmann.

Tiago is the only injury doubt for the hosts, though, with Saul Niguez ready to step in should the midfielder fail to pass a late fitness test.

Atletico possible starting lineup:
Oblak; Juanfran, Gimenez, Godin, Luis; Oliver Torres, Gabi, Tiago, Koke; Griezmann, Martinez

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Roberto, Mascherano, Vermaelen, Alba; Iniesta, Busquets, Rakitic; Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Head To Head

This fixture has been a season-defining one in recent years. Atletico clinched the 2013-14 title with a draw at Camp Nou on the final day of that campaign, while Barcelona won last term's crown in Atletico's own back yard exactly one year later.

Atletico have not beaten Barca in a domestic match since 2010, however, with their current 10-match winless streak against them in the league being their longest drought in top-flight history.

The Catalans have won each of the last four meetings, all of which came last season due to a double-header in the cup in addition to their league meetings.

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We say: Atletico 0-1 Barcelona

Atletico like to keep things tight at the back and, coupled with Barcelona's improved defensive record under Enrique, this is likely to be a low-scoring affair. However, we can't back against a side boasting the attacking talent of Barcelona, particularly taking into account their recent record against Atletico. We're going for a third consecutive 1-0 win for the champions.

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Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone gestures during the Champions League quarter final match against Barcelona on April 9, 2014
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