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Predicting Atlético Madrid’s XI vs. Barcelona

Diego Simeone’s defense needs to get fit in a hurry as Barça roll into town.

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

It is a true partidazo at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday. Atlético Madrid will host Barcelona in a matchup of unbeaten sides, and it’s a chance for Atlético to make a huge statement of intent in LaLiga. Further, a good showing is important after the disappointments against Chelsea and Leganés.

As of now, Diego Simeone only has one fit full back, but that should soon change as all three of Lucas, Filipe Luís and Šime Vrsaljko have returned to training ahead of Barça’s visit. Simeone also has five forwards to choose from (even though it’s clear which two should start). With that in mind, let’s take a look at how El Cholo’s squad may line up against Ernesto Valverde’s resurgent blaugrana.

Jan Oblak, GK

Slovenia were eliminated from World Cup contention last week, which means Oblak should be ready and motivated to ball out against Barça.

Juanfran, RB

At least Neymar won’t be able to run him ragged anymore? Šime Vrsaljko got hurt again over international break, and even though it’s a minor hamstring problem, Simeone will probably prioritize his participation against Qarabag on Wednesday.

Diego Godín, CB

Should be the first name on the team sheet. Looks set for another engaging battle with compatriot Luis Suárez.

Lucas Hernández, CB

Lucas missed out on Atlético’s pre-break draw at Leganés with a mild hamstring strain. The Frenchman is training again, however, and I think he gets the nod over the slower Stefan Savić.

Filipe Luís, LB

Like Lucas, Filipe is back training after a hamstring strain kept him out of international duty. It would be surprising if he did not get the medical all-clear ahead of such a big game.

Koke, RM

Koke is going to play on the right hand side of midfield and there is nothing you or I can do about it.

Saúl Ñíguez, CM

Expect to see Saúl in a defensive role, even operating as another center back when Barcelona probe and get closer to Oblak’s goal as the game moves along. Sure, you can understand the reasoning against a team as skilled and ball-dominant as Barça, but the Spain international (!!!!!) can offer so much moving forward.

Thomas Partey, CM

Thomas’ improvement as a distributor could really come in handy when Atleti are afforded the opportunity to counter. Winning the ball and moving it up the pitch quickly are critical components of any game plan to beat Barça — Thomas can do both.

Yannick Carrasco, LM

You know, I could see Simeone battening down the hatches and starting Gabi, thus forming the Fantastic Central Midfield Four. But I think it’s more likely that the Argentine opts for Carrasco’s flash and flair to pin back Nélson Semedo/Sergi Roberto.

Antoine Griezmann, FW

This is a statement game for Griezmann, who’s been scoring regularly (three goals in five) since mid-September but hasn’t impacted the game the way his Messi-esque role requires. He was excellent for France over the break, and now that has to translate to club performances.

Ángel Correa, FW

Of course, Griezmann’s strike partner often dictates how well he plays and whether Atlético’s attack will collapse onto itself. Correa slowed down a bit before the international break, but there’s no doubting he’s still the best choice to partner Griezmann. Simeone is allowed more flexibility to shift Grizi into more of a traditional #9 role while Correa can play more as a #7.

Agree? Disagree? Have your say in the comments!