Tonight sees the most hotly anticipated game of the La Liga season so far – El Clasico has been knocked, temporarily, off its perch as the eyes of Spain and the footballing world turn to Atletico Madrid v Barcelona.
Barca and Atleti sit on top of the La Liga table this morning, five points in front of Real Madrid. They have identical records: both sides have an identical record having won 16, drawn 1 and lost 1 of their games so far. Barcelona are on top thanks to a slightly superior goal difference but that could all change tonight as they travel to the Vicente Calderon.
Barcelona are in great form – they have won seven straight matches in a row and the goals have been flying in. Atletico, however, are unbeaten at home this season including 5-0 wins over Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano and a 7-0 thrashing of Getafe in November. This really is the footballing equivalent of the unstoppable force meeting the immoveable object.
To add extra spice, if any was needed, Lionel Messi returned from injury as a second half substitute in the Copa del rey in midweek. He only played thirty minutes but that was time enough for him to score two goals against Getafe. Will Messi make the starting eleven or will Tata Martino ease him back in from the substitute’s bench once more? When games of this magnitude come along you need your best players on the pitch – I expect Messi to start tonight in place of Alexis Sanchez.
Atletico have their own goal machine of course in the shape of naturalised Spaniard Diego Costa. The Brazilian born hitman has scored 19 goals in 17 La Liga appearances this term, and has been so effective that Atleti have barely missed the presence of departed Falcao.
This game could go either way, but here at La Liga blog we don’t sit on the fence. I predict that Messi will score but that Atletico will prove resilient and strong on the break. I expect Atleti to claim the win by the odd goal in a high scoring match – a result that really will shake up the La Liga season. Whatever happens it is sure a magnificent spectacle.