FC Barcelona will be going into the game against their capital rivals in damp spirit and with a point to prove. The Catalan giants were whitewashed 3 – 0 by Portuguese side, Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday. The defeat has left the Spanish giants in unsavory waters at the continental level.
In La Liga however, Barca remain unbeaten having won three and drawn the rest in their last six games in the league. In their last match in the competition, they comfortably made light work of Levante FC at Nou Camp and ran away comfortably with a 3 – 0 victory. Against Atletico, the team will be hoping to continue their unbeaten run at the Spanish capital inside the Wanda Metropolitano.
The last time the two sides met in the same venue, Atletico Madrid won the encounter with a 1 – 0 victory against a Messi led Barca side. However, a lot has changed since then and the Argentine is no longer at the club. But, one thing is for sure, Ronald Koeman’s future at the club will surely be determined today if he fails to get the better of his comrade.
Barca will be going into the encounter without Aguero, Ousmane Dembele, Martin Braithwaite and Pedri due to injuries. However, the recovery of Coutinho, Ansu Fati and Jordi Alba is going to be additional boost for the team. The coach deployed 4-3-3 against Levante which synced with the players. The disastrous 3-5-2 formation against Benfica means the coach will have no option than to revert to 4-3-3.
The return of Jordi Alba means Sergino Dest will return to the right back position, while Gerard Pique and Araujo will preferably start at centre back. With Pedri injured, we should expect Gavi to start in midfield alongside Sergio Busquets and Frenkie De Jong who missed out in the last league match after getting the marching orders against Cadiz. Ter Stegen will continue in his goalie duties despite the shabby showing midweek.
Up front, we expect the coach to deploy the trio of Coutinho, Memphis Depay and Luuk De Jong in a three man forward line. However, the coach may also choose to start with a 4-4-2 formation and play four midfielder by adding Nico or Sergi Roberto in the midfield while fielding only Depay and L.D Jong in attack with a view to altering the formation after the introduction of Ansu Fati into the game. The coach has already stated the youngster will not be rushed back to play after his long term injury that him out for 322 days.
The two teams have traditionally met almost every other season in the league. But, of the 11 times they have met in recent times, Atletico Madrid has only won once. With his job hanging by a narrow thread, Koeman may go berserk with his strategy today and give it every shot to save the day. Therefore, it will not be out of turn to expect a totally different Barca today.
Suarez and Griezmann may also have a point to prove to their former team after both combined midweek to defeat AC Milan with their decisive goals in the Champions League.