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Preview: Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's La Liga clash between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

One of the standout fixtures on the La Liga calendar will take place at Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon as Barcelona welcome Atletico Madrid for a huge match in the top flight of Spanish football.

Barca are currently third in the table, level on points with second-placed Real Madrid, while Atletico are two points clear at the summit as the race for the title heads for its final straight.


Match preview

Barcelona's Lionel Messi scores against Valencia in La Liga on May 2, 2021© Reuters

There is no question that Barca have had their problems this season, but it would go down as a brilliant campaign if they could make it a La Liga and Copa del Rey double. One trophy is already in the bag, having beaten Athletic Bilbao 4-0 in the Copa del Rey final in the middle of April, and they can now put their full attention on finishing at the top of the pile in La Liga.

As mentioned, Ronald Koeman's side are currently third in the table, level on points with second-placed Real Madrid and just two points behind leaders Atletico. A win for Barca here would move them to the summit, but Real Madrid would rise above them if Los Blancos manage to beat fourth-placed Sevilla on Sunday night.

The Catalan giants suffered a shock 2-1 home defeat to Granada on April 29, with the result preventing them from moving to the top of the table. However, they returned to winning ways last time out, holding off a late comeback from Valencia to record a 3-2 success at Mestalla.

Lionel Messi scored twice against Los Che in a brilliant performance, and it would be some finish to the season if Barca managed to secure a domestic double and sign the Argentine to a new contract.

Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring against Villarreal with Lionel Messi on April 25, 2021© Reuters

Barca actually have the best away record in Spain's top flight this season, picking up 37 points from their 17 matches; they have also been strong at home, boasting the third-best record in La Liga, but Koeman's side have dropped points in six of their 17 league fixtures at Camp Nou.

A defeat to Atletico would not end Barca's title challenge, but it would leave them in a very difficult position, especially with Real Madrid also in the picture. Sevilla had pulled themselves into the running due to an excellent run of form, but Julen Lopetegui's side suffered a damaging loss to Athletic on Monday evening.

The disappointing Champions League defeat to Paris Saint-Germain has left Koeman's side with much to ponder ahead of the summer transfer window, and it remains to be seen the extent of the funds available in the upcoming market due to the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Barca must simply focus on the here and now, though, and they will be looking to finish their 2020-21 campaign with four straight victories over Atletico, Levante, Celta Vigo and Eibar, hoping that it will be enough to win the title that they lost last term.

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone pictured on February 13, 2021© Reuters

Atletico are bidding to win their first La Liga title since the 2013-14 campaign, when they ultimately finished three points clear of second-placed Barca and third-placed Real Madrid; the race is set to be even closer this time around, and there is simply no downplaying the importance of this weekend's contest.

The capital giants have, for long spells of the season, been La Liga's most impressive side, and it did appear at one point that they would run away with the title; that has not proved to be the case, but a win at Camp Nou would leave them in a very strong position ahead of their final three matches of the season.

Diego Simeone's side have two home games after this weekend's game, taking on Real Sociedad and Osasuna on May 12 and May 16 respectively, before finishing the season on May 23 away to Real Valladolid, who might be in the need of the points to remain in the division.

Atletico suffered a damaging 2-1 defeat to Athletic Bilbao on April 25, but they managed to return to winning ways last weekend courtesy of a 1-0 success over Elche, with Marcos Llorente's first-half goal proving to be the difference in what was a tight and cagey affair at Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero.

Athletic Bilbao's Inigo Martinez scores against Atletico Madrid in La Liga on April 25, 2021© Reuters

The Red and Whites are simply not playing as well as they were towards the end of 2020 and early stages of 2021, but they are two points clear at the summit with four games left, which is an impressive feat.

Unsurprisingly, Atletico again have the best defensive record in La Liga, conceding just 22 times in their 34 matches, while they are the second-highest scorers (61) behind Barca (80). Luis Suarez has proved to be an inspired signing, scoring 19 La Liga goals, and it will be fascinating to see how the Uruguay international performs against the club where he enjoyed so much success.

Simeone's side have the best home record in the league this term, picking up 42 points from 17 matches at Wanda Metropolitano, but they have dropped points in seven of their 17 away fixtures and have found it difficult to pick up positive results at Camp Nou.

The fact that neither of these two sides were in European action during the week means that it should be a highly energetic contest. A win for either would be huge, but ironically a victory for Barca would put Real Madrid in pole position for the title if Zinedine Zidane's side beat Sevilla on Sunday.

Barcelona La Liga form:
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • W

Barcelona form (all competitions):
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • W

Atletico Madrid La Liga form:
  • L
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • W



Team News

Philippe Coutinho in action for Barcelona on December 13, 2020© Reuters

Barca's injury situation has not changed since the win over Valencia, with Martin Braithwaite, Philippe Coutinho and Ansu Fati all still on the sidelines.

The Catalan giants did not pick up any fresh problems against Los Che, meaning that Koeman has plenty of decisions to make, with the Dutchman selecting a number of different formations this term.

Ronald Araujo could get the nod over Oscar Mingueza as part of a back three, while Sergi Roberto might be preferred to Sergino Dest in the right-sided wing-back position.

Griezmann is set to keep his spot alongside Messi as part of a front two, meaning that Ousmane Dembele is expected to start on the bench for the home side.

As for Atletico, Simeone's side have been hit with a number of injuries to key players in the second half of the season, but the squad is looking healthy entering the final straight.

Renan Lodi was the only player absent against Elche last time out due to a muscular problem, and the Brazilian is unlikely to recover for this match, but the visitors otherwise have a full squad to choose from.

Jose Gimenez had emerged as a slight doubt but should be available, with the Uruguay international set to feature as part of a back three, while Thomas Lemar is likely to start in midfield over Saul Niguez and Geoffrey Kondogbia, with Luis Suarez being joined by Angel Correa in attack.

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Araujo, Pique, Lenglet; Roberto, De Jong, Busquets, Pedri, Alba; Messi, Griezmann

Atletico Madrid possible starting lineup:
Oblak; Savic, Gimenez, Hermoso; Trippier, Llorente, Koke, Lemar, Carrasco; Suarez, Correa


Head To Head

Barca and Atletico have locked horns on 167 occasions in the league throughout history, and the Catalan giants lead the head to head with 75 victories compared to Atletico's 51.

The points were shared in a 2-2 draw when the two teams locked horns at Camp Nou last term, but Atletico recorded a 1-0 victory in the reverse fixture at Wanda Metropolitano earlier this season, with Yannick Carrasco's first-half effort proving to be the difference between the two sides.

Atletico's league success back in November was actually the first time that they had beaten Barca in Spain's top flight since February 2010, which is an indication of the dominance recently enjoyed by the latter.


SM words green background

We say: Barcelona 1-1 Atletico Madrid

The points were shared when the two teams locked horns at Camp Nou last season, and we are finding it difficult to back anything other than a draw in this game. Both managers will be desperate to avoid defeat, which could create a tight and cagey affair, and we just cannot look past a low-scoring draw here.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data


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How you voted: Barcelona vs Atletico

Barcelona
67.0%
Draw
15.5%
Atletico Madrid
17.5%
388
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Barcelona's Lionel Messi scores against Valencia in La Liga on May 2, 2021
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
CAtletico MadridAtletico38268467254286
2Real Madrid38259467283984
3Barcelona38247785384779
4Sevilla38245953332077
5Real Sociedad3817111059382162
6Real Betis381710115050061
7Villarreal3815131060441658
8Celta Vigo381411135557-253
9Granada38137184765-1846
10Athletic Bilbao381113144642446
11Osasuna381111163748-1144
12CadizCadiz381111163658-2244
13Valencia381013155053-343
14Levante38914154657-1141
15Getafe38911182843-1538
16AlavesAlaves38911183657-2138
17ElcheElche38812183455-2136
RHuesca38713183453-1934
RReal Valladolid38516173457-2331
REibarEibar38612202952-2330

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