When asked about Atlético Madrid’s lengthy winless run at Barcelona’s Camp Nou, Diego Simeone said Friday that “there’s always a first time for everything in life.”
See, the Argentine — who has accomplished most everything else in his nine-and-a-half seasons as the club’s manager — has never overseen an away win at Barcelona. He’s been in charge for five defeats and three draws across eight league meetings away to Barça (though one of those draws won a title).
But on Saturday, Simeone will have another chance to snap a run which has seen Atlético (23-7-4, 76 points) fail to win at this stadium in over 15 years. And ending that barren streak would put Atleti in position to claim a first league title in seven years.
“We are facing a team that has cut many points (off our lead),” Simeone said. “Their manager has done great work and he has turned (his team’s fortunes) around after the first half of the season.”
Though Ronald Koeman is suspended and won’t be on the sideline for this game, his Barcelona side (23-5-6, 74 points) has won 19 of its past 24 games to launch itself back into the title picture. Lionel Messi’s brilliant form has seen him open up a sizable gap atop the scoring chart, with his 28 goals now nine more than Luis Suárez — the close friend and former teammate who will return to his old stomping grounds on Saturday, less than nine months after Koeman told him that he wasn’t in his plans.
Suárez (19 goals) and Marcos Llorente (12 goals) are the second-most productive duo in LaLiga, behind only Messi (28) and Antoine Griezmann (12).
“(Suárez and Marcos Llorente’s seasons) speak for themselves,” Simeone said. “They’re having a fantastic season, a player like Luis asserting himself in every way that was expected of him and Llorente having one of the best years of his career.”
Cholo is set to utilize that duo as part of a trident alongside the scalding-hot Yannick Carrasco — whose first half goal won this matchup for Atlético in November. Geoffrey Kondogbia is also on course to get a second consecutive start after his fine display against Elche last weekend. Atlético have no one unavailable through suspension or injury — a rarity and a luxury at this point in the season.
“The whole squad is enthusiastic and hopeful,” Simeone said. “I completely trust the team I have for the remainder of the season.”
The squad All players are available.
Date May 8, 2021
Location Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia
Kickoff time 4:15 p.m. CEST, 3:15 p.m. GMT, 10:15 a.m. EST, 7:15 a.m. PST
SB Nation opposition blog Barça Blaugranes
Available TV/streaming Movistar Partidazo (Spain), DIRECTV Sports (Argentina), DIRECTV Sports (Uruguay), SuperSport Máximo 2 (Central African Republic), Sportklub 1 (Montenegro), LaLiga TV (United Kingdom), beIN Sports (United States), Guangdong Sports Channel (China)