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Know Thine Enemy: Q&A with Barça Blaugranes

Diego Lorijn of SB Nation’s Barcelona blog talked with us about Saturday’s Metropolitano partidazo.

Club Atletico de Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Into the Calderón: There was a lot of negativity surrounding Barcelona this summer, but they're off to a perfect start. How surprised are you given the way the season has started?

Diego Lorijn: VERY! Being a Cule and being half Catalan, I am pessimistic by nature. Therefore, given all that went down this summer — from the Neymar and corruptions scandals, to the mockery we made of the transfer window, as well as the pending contract renewals of Leo and Andres, etc. — I was hugely wary that this season s*** was going to hit the fan as hard as the time when Mr. Burns was our club President!

ItC: Is Luis Suárez good to go despite a nagging knee injury?

DL: That's up to him and the club's medical staff to decide. He's clearly going through a slump where he's lost this edge which made him a killer in the box. Whether that's all down to his knee problems is not entirely clear. There's a lot of rumours going on at the moment about his relationship with el Txingurri, which is not helping the situation. But these things are to be expected when a player the caliber of Luis Suárez is taking longer than expected to adapt to a new system. All I will say is that he better find his form again quickly because Valverde has asked the board to put their sights on a quality reinforcement. You might have heard of him...he goes by the name of Antoine Griezmann!

ItC: I have heard of him! You don’t want him! You...don’t...want...him..

So, Lionel Messi has been sensational so far, but who has been an underappreciated contributor to Barça's perfect start?

DL: Great question! Several players can be mentioned here! Ter Stegen has to be given a lot of credit! He's been exceptional between the posts and has had to make some seriously crucial saves, allowing us to keep a clean sheet most for most matches so far. Umtiti has also allowed us to once again feel a sense of security in our defence. His adaptation is complete and he looks like a veteran out there. Same must be said for Semedo! I never expected him to adapt as quickly as he did and it's a mystery why he's not starting more matches. He fits Valverde's system perfectly and he needs to be a definite starter every match. I think sitting out some matches has to do with his contract options. Much like the case with Denis Suárez and the €800k Barça pays to Man City for every 10 matches he plays, I'm certain the board has given Valverde the order to also not play Nélson every match, as a way to avoid having to pay the bonus money to Benfica. Speaking of Denis Suárez, how much more does he have to do to prove to us all that he is the PERFECT player to play along side of Leo!!?? Put this kid fixed into the starting eleven as of NOW! However, at some point we need to address the fact that after Messi, our second best goal scorer is...Own Goal! :(

ItC: Where do you think Barça could run into trouble against an Atlético Madrid side that seems to always lose this fixture 2-1?

DL: I know, right? Crazy to think that under Simeone you guys only managed to beat us in the Champions League! TWICE! Although that has to count double in my opinion. That said, this will be our biggest test of the season so far. Despite the results so far having been in our favor we've yet to be tested by serious opposition so far this season. Atleti is and always will be a HUGE test to see where exactly we stand as a squad. Any time you face a team with players the likes of Griezmann, Koke and Saúl, and you play in front of some of Spain’s best and most hardcore, passionate fans, you've got to bring your A-game!

ItC: Finish this sentence: "Barcelona will beat Atlético if..."

DL: Messi happens.

ItC: Scoreline prediction?