This game preview also serves as our live gamethread — start a conversation in the comments!
Atlético Madrid host Barcelona on Saturday night in what could be a pivotal contest for both teams.
“Barça have always (focused on) combination play in the opponent’s half,” Diego Simeone said Friday. “It has brought them great successes. I can’t imagine (seeing) another team.”
Clearly, Simeone is not taking Barcelona (3-3-0, 12 points) for granted despite the club’s myriad sporting and institutional fractures. Coach Ronald Koeman — who is serving a two-game touchline ban — is regarded as a dead man walking, and Luis Suárez told ESPN in a newly-published interview that the way the Dutchman forced him out last September continues to sting.
“I see Suárez as I always have,” Simeone said when asked about the Uruguayan’s comments. “He has the same hunger and desire as when he arrived. We try to support him in the best way, to emphasize his qualities.”
Atlético (4-2-1, 14 points) lost its last league game at Alavés a week ago but are feeling good after Tuesday’s comeback victory at AC Milan in the Champions League. The league champions have beaten Barça only once in LaLiga with Simeone as coach — last November, without Suárez, in this very stadium.
“They have a great squad with Alba, Dest, Piqué, Pedri, Ansu, Dembélé, De Jong,” Simeone said. “They are all great footballers.”
However, though Jordi Alba is indeed back in Koeman’s squad, the brilliant young Pedri was ruled out Friday morning with a thigh injury.
Cholo will have to contend without the suspended Geoffrey Kondogbia and the injured Matheus Cunha, whose own thigh problem renders him unavailable for this match. The Argentine is set to start Suárez and João Félix in attack, leaving another former Barça forward, Antoine Griezmann, on the bench.
“They are compatible with one another,” Simeone said when asked about fielding Félix, Griezmann, and Suárez together. “The (competition for minutes) generates enthusiasm, and the most important thing to manage is making sure everyone feels important. The quality of the minutes makes the difference, and hopefully (the competition) can take us forward.”
Date Oct. 2, 2021
Location Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CEST, 8:00 p.m. BST, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST
SB Nation opposition blog Barça Blaugranes