MX23RW : Wednesday, December 19 12:21:32

Preview: Atletico Madrid vs. Barcelona

Sports Mole previews Saturday's La Liga clash between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Barcelona will look to continue their 100% start to the 2017-18 campaign when they travel to Atletico Madrid's new stadium on Saturday night.

A record of seven wins from seven matches has seen Barcelona storm to the summit, but Atletico are also unbeaten this season – winning four and drawing three of their fixtures to occupy fourth position.


Atletico

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone during the Champions League match with Leicester City on April 18, 2017© SilverHub

This weekend, the Wanda Metropolitano will host the first league match between Atletico and Barcelona. Atletico's beautiful new home will be bouncing, and Diego Simeone's side will need their 12th man to be in fine form as they attempt to derail Barcelona's 100% start to the campaign.

Atletico have also made an unbeaten start to the season, with four wins and three draws seeing them occupy fourth position in the table. They will, however, enter this match off the back of a disappointing goalless draw at Leganes before the international break.

The capital outfit also suffered a 2-1 Champions League defeat to Chelsea in their last match on home soil, but have beaten Malaga and Sevilla without conceding in their last two league games in their new stadium.

After starting their 2017-18 campaign with a 2-2 draw at Girona, Atletico thumped Las Palmas 5-1 to move onto four points. They then drew at Valencia, before recording three straight wins over Malaga, Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla.

It has been a solid yet unspectacular start to the season, but Atletico are only six points behind Barcelona in the table, and currently sit one point and one spot above bitter rivals Real Madrid.

It does appear that Sevilla and Valencia are ready to battle for the Champions League this season, and Atletico could indeed face the possibility of missing out on the top four for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign.

Recent form: WDWWWD
Recent form (all competitions): DWWWLD


Barcelona

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi celebrates scoring during his side's Champions League group game against Juventus at the Camp Nou on September 12, 2017© Offside

While reigning champions Real Madrid have stuttered in the early weeks of the 2017-18 La Liga campaign, Barcelona have put seven straight wins on the board to storm to the top of the table on 21 points.

Ernesto Valverde's side are currently five points clear of second-placed Sevilla, and lead fifth-placed Real Madrid by seven points as club football returns following the international break.

Barcelona have beaten Real Betis, Alaves, Espanyol, Getafe, Eibar, Girona and Las Palmas in their first seven games of the new season, but they face comfortably their biggest test thus far at Atletico's new stadium this weekend.

The Catalan giants faced the possibility of forfeiting their clash with Las Palmas on October 1 amid the political unrest in Catalonia, but ultimately the decision was made to play that match behind closed doors at Camp Nou.

Barcelona put everything else aside to record a 3-0 win over Las Palmas, and ensure that they would enter this match with their 100% record still intact.

Valverde's team have also made a perfect start to their Champions League group campaign – beating Juventus and Sporting Lisbon to top the group. Neymar's summer departure brought a lot of concern, but Barcelona have been simply excellent since losing to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.

There is no doubt that they face their toughest league game of the season this weekend, but another win would leave them in a very strong position at the summit.

Recent form: WWWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWW


Team News

Yannick Carrasco and Lionel Messi in action during the Champions League quarter-final between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid on April 5, 2016© AFP

Lucas Hernandez missed Atletico's goalless draw with Leganes before the international break with a hamstring problem, but the left-back should return for Simeone's side this weekend, which is good timing as Filipe Luis remains unavailable.

Yannick Ferreira Carrasco is also pushing for a spot in the XI, and the Belgian should start alongside Antoine Griezmann in the final third.

Simeone has a decision to make at right-back as he prepares to choose between Jose Gimenez, Sime Vrsaljko and Juanfran, while Koke, Gabi and Saul Niguez should form the midfield three.

As for Barcelona, Andres Iniesta will be absent due to a hamstring problem, but Nelson Semedo and Samuel Umtiti should return after being left on the bench against Las Palmas before the international break.

Ousmane Dembele remains on the sidelines, and with Iniesta also unavailable, Valverde will choose between Aleix Vidal and Gerard Deulofeu alongside Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi in the final third of the field.

Atletico possible starting lineup:
Oblak; Gimenez, Godin, Savic, Hernandez; Koke, Saul, Gabi; Carrasco, Griezmann, Correa

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Umtiti, Pique, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Paulinho; Deulofeu, Suarez, Messi


Head To Head

Incredibly, Atletico have not beaten Barcelona in the league since a 2-1 victory in Madrid during the 2009-10 campaign.

Barcelona recorded a 2-1 win at the Vicente Calderon in their last meeting back in February, while the points were shared in a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou earlier in the season.

Atletico actually lost seven straight games to Barcelona across three separate competitions between January 2015 and April 2016, before returning to winning ways with a 2-0 win in the Champions League.


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We say: Atletico 1-1 Barcelona

It will be very interesting to see what type of match occurs after so many players from both clubs have been away on international duty.

Both managers would certainly accept a draw before kickoff, and we are predicting an interesting but very tight match as Barcelona drop their first league points of the campaign.


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Who will win Saturday's La Liga clash between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona?

Atletico
Draw
Barcelona
Atletico
15.0%
Draw
5.0%
Barcelona
80.0%
Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann during the Champions League match against Leicester City on April 18, 2017
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Barcelona16104246192734
2Sevilla1694329161331
3Atletico MadridAtletico1687124121231
4Real Madrid169252419529
5Real Betis167451918125
6AlavesAlaves167451817125
7Getafe166641712524
8Levante166462730-322
9GironaGirona165651719-221
10Celta Vigo165652824421
11Espanyol166371823-521
12Real Valladolid165561518-320
13EibarEibar165562024-420
14Valencia1631031313019
15Real Sociedad165471819-119
16Leganes164661519-418
17Villarreal163671721-415
18Athletic Bilbao162951523-815
19Rayo Vallecano1624101531-1610
20Huesca1615101432-188

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