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FC Barcelona-Atlético Madrid Q&A with Brendan Boyle

The Madrid-based journalist helps us preview a potential title-tilting clash.

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

Spain has started to welcome back tourists, but the coronavirus continues to linger and Madrid’s government bears responsibility for some of the deaths during this pandemic. What is the mood like in Madrid and in the country as a whole?

The mood has been greatly lifted here recently with the reopening of bars and restaurants — hugely important institutions of Spanish daily life. It has been an incredibly tough few months so getting back to normal will take a bit of time, but people here are resilient and soldiering on. It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks go as the domestic tourism season cranks into gear and foreign visitors begin to arrive. If the country can get through the summer relatively unscathed, it will be a huge psychological and economic boost.

On to football matters. Barcelona have changed coaches since the dramatic Supercopa semifinal loss to Atlético. Has Quique Setién has done a good job given the chaotic circumstances?

It was always going to be an uphill task for Setién given the squad he inherited. There have been lots of injuries but, once again, it has essentially all been down to Lionel Messi. They have become very predictable, and really lack that personality in midfield to dominate opponents and really hurt them. And, of course, Antoine Griezmann has yet to impose himself on the dressing room.

There’s no doubt Setién deserves some form of criticism, he has been at Camp Nou since January and I don’t see how he, himself, has evolved as a manager. It’s pretty much the Setien-ball we saw at Las Palmas and Real Betis. On a scale of 1-10, I would give Setien a lukewarm 6.

Celta de Vigo v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Griezmann made a crucial mistake on Iago Aspas’ equalizer on Saturday. He’s played just 88 minutes over the past three games. What has gone wrong for him over the balance of his first season at Barça?

I think a lot of it has to do with personality. He was never the most vocal of players but he was a kind of quiet leader at Atlético Madrid. It must be said that Atleti built their attack to the strengths of the Frenchman, and now he finds himself in Leo Messi’s team and he’s still very much finding his own space in the dressing room it seems. He is still obviously a world-class player, but I’m sure Barça fans are expecting him to step up and impose himself much more in the coming months.

I know my answer, but who do you prefer — Jan Oblak or Marc André Ter Stegen?

I have to be loyal to the Slovenian on this one. He will go down as Atlético Madrid’s greatest-ever goalkeeper.

Finally — what is your scoreline prediction?

After a brilliant return to action, Atleti are basically coming into this one with house money — nothing to lose — and if Simeone chooses an aggressive lineup I think they can get a result at Camp Nou. 1-1.