Atlético Madrid welcome FC Barcelona to the Metropolitano on Sunday night for a top-four clash with significant ramifications.
Atlético (8-3-4, 27 points) have been perfect since the FIFA World Cup’s conclusion, sandwiching a league win over Elche in between cup victories at Arenteiro and Real Oviedo. But Barcelona (12-2-1, 38 points) have been one of the most dominant teams in the country since a summer spending spree brought players like Raphinha, Jules Koundé, and Robert Lewandowski to Catalonia.
However, Lewandowski (and left-back Jordi Alba) will be unavailable through suspension on Sunday, potentially boosting Atlético’s hopes of beating Barça in Madrid for the third consecutive season.
“There is no bigger game than the one you have to play next,” Diego Simeone told the media on Saturday. “Barcelona are doing very well in the league, it is the team that had the most players at the World Cup, they have a manager with clear ideas and they play very well.”
Barça survived a serious midweek scare in the cup, requiring extra time to defeat third-tier Intercity in a seven-goal thriller. Meanwhile, in Asturias, Atlético overcame the challenge of Real Oviedo, with 19-year-old Pablo Barrios receiving more plaudits after he capped off his substitute appearance with another goal.
Barrios has trained throughout the week in Simeone’s provisional 11, and it’s now likely he starts Sunday in a midfield that will also feature captain Koke and Marcos Llorente (who scored the opener against Oviedo).
Simeone: "We are still to select those who will play in the middle. Lemar, Koke are working very well, and so is Pablo and Kondogbia. Football is a game that asks you to do what you normally see in training or in matches, even if you are 20 or 35 years old". https://t.co/sZWsMuYbeG— The Partido a Partido Podcast (@ThePaPPod) January 7, 2023
Atlético have lost only one of the past five league meetings with Barcelona, and the Catalans have become a favorite opponent for Yannick Carrasco, who has scored twice across those five games. Sunday will also see Antoine Griezmann go up against his former club for only the second time since he returned to Atlético in 2021.
Griezmann has never scored for Atleti against Barça in LaLiga, but the Frenchman is in excellent form entering this match. After registering three assists with Les Bleus at the World Cup, the 31-year-old set up both goals in the win over Elche on Dec. 29 and assisted Llorente’s goal at Oviedo in midweek.
“This is a good opportunity for the team to continue growing, improving, and displaying what we want to display in the game,” Simeone said. “We want to take the game where we want to take it against a team like Barcelona.”
Date Jan. 8, 2023
Location Estadio Cívitas Metropolitano, Madrid
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST
SB Nation opposition site Barça Blaugranes