While losing at the hands of Real Madrid is always painful enough, the fact that Los Blancos inflicted that misery with 10 men sprinkles more salt on the Barcelona wounds. Ahead of a crucial Champions League tie, this defeat might not be too damaging, but it should send alarm bells through the cauldrons of the Camp Nou.
That Barcelona is not invincible has been established now. They are mere mortals and can be defeated, as suggested by the defeat. In addition to epitomizing certain key weaknesses of their opponents, Real Madrid, albeit inadvertently, showed a glimmer of hope to Diego Simeone.
Thus, while Atletico Madrid doesn’t quite have the same pace as their city rivals, they could run out Barcelona in the same way as Real Madrid did. Hence, for the first time in more than a year, the credentials of this Barcelona team have been called into question and Luis Enrique will be under the spotlight.
As for the home side, defenders Adriano and Jeremy Mathieu have already been ruled out of this fixture. Thus, the defense will be unchanged for Barcelona apart from Ter Stegen, who would take over from Claudio Bravo.
Taking a look at their offense and it is not the injuries, but the fatigue which could be a crucial factor for Barcelona.
In the international break, Suarez, Neymar and Messi traveled the whole continent to play for their respective national side. All of them crossed Europe last week in order to represent their nations in different time zones and came back in different states of disorder.
Thus, unlike the past few matches between these two teams, where results were based on craft, quality and precision, this one is different, as it could well be decided on whether Barcelona’s front trio are able to shake off their fatigue or not.
Looking at the away side, they are coming into this game with ideal pre-match preparations. Currently sitting 6 points short of Barcelona in the league table, Diego Simeone’s men are coming into this game on the back of a 5-1 demolition of Real Betis.
Also, they have conceded the lowest goals in La Liga this season. Thus, with a perfect mixture of defense and attack, Atletico could rupture Barcelona’s hopes of completing a treble this year.
Although Luciano Vietto is still a doubt, Atletico Madrid will be bolstered by the return of Diego Godin, Yannik Carrasco and Stefan Savic.