Atlético Madrid visit presumptive champions FC Barcelona in LaLiga on Sunday, when the Rojiblancos can lay down a marker for the 2023/24 league campaign.
Atlético (18-6-5, 60 points) have not lost in 13 outings and could add a real feather in the cap to this purple patch of form with a win over Xavi’s Barcelona (23-4-2, 73 points).
Diego Simeone has never guided Atlético to a win at Camp Nou Spotify, and Atleti last won at the stadium in 2006.
“I like this Barça team. They’re a little different,” Simeone told the media on Saturday. “They’ve been growing and are having a great season. They’ve improved in defense, and that’s a plus. With the qualities of the players they have, improving the defense has added value to Xavi’s work.”
Barcelona are on course to smash the league record for fewest goals conceded across a 38-game season — which is jointly-held by Deportivo La Coruña and Simeone’s Atlético, which shipped only 18 goals in 2015/16. Barça’s main problem right now appears to be finding goals, as the Blaugrana have gone three consecutive games without scoring. The returns of Pedri and Frenkie de Jong on Sunday might help the Catalans, who hold an 11-point lead over Real Madrid atop LaLiga.
“We always play against great teams (at Camp Nou Spotify). The numbers say it’s hard for us to win there, it’s cost us,” Simeone said. “We’ve always competed well. We’ll try to take the game to where we think we can hurt them.”
Playing the kind of game Simeone wants his team to play will be challenging without the suspended Marcos Llorente, as well as the injured Memphis Depay. El Cholo will welcome stalwart Stefan Savić back into the heart of defense for Sunday’s game, and Thomas Lemar will take up Llorente’s vacant position in midfield.
Up top, Ángel Correa will partner Antoine Griezmann, who will take on his former club at Camp Nou Spotify for the first time since making his sensational move back to Madrid in 2021.
“When Griezmann is in form, the team plays different football,” Simeone said. “We suffered from it at the beginning of the season (when he was playing 30 minutes per game), as you know. I will remember the game before the World Cup, running like a kid...not everyone has that, and he has it.”
Date April 23, 2023
Location Camp Nou Spotify, Barcelona, Catalonia
Kickoff time 4:15 p.m. CEST, 3:15 p.m. BST, 10:15 a.m. EST, 7:15 a.m. PST
SB Nation opposition blog Barça Blaugranes