'Trial by means of hearth' – An FC Barcelona Versus Atletico Madrid Preview

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Just like in any monumental clash between two big teams, the caveats and subplots are manyfold in FC Barcelona’s meeting with Atletico Madrid on Sunday evening.

About 'Trial

'Trial By Fire': An FC Barcelona Versus Atletico Madrid Preview

About Fire':

The return of Antoine Grizemann to the Wanda, and how he will be received by his former home fans after asummer switch to Catalonia, is arguably the most prominent. Yet there are also several others including the fact that Diego Simeone has never beaten Barça in the league and that visitors have lost every one of their away games (three in total) that the suspended Sergio Busquets has not started in 2019/2020.

Given Real Madrid’s scrappy 1-2 victory over Alaves yesterday, this is a battle between second and fifth with the Blaugrana able to retake top spot in La Liga through a win. They would draw level on 31 points with their bitter rivals, but their goal difference would be superior and as for Atleti, they could, by beating their visitors, match them on 28 points though only get to third given their meek tally of 16 for and 9 against (i.e. just +7 compared to FCB’s +19).

'Trial By Fire': An FC Barcelona Versus Atletico Madrid Preview

Atleti’s shyness in hitting the back of the net, coupled with their remarkable defending and Barcelona’s struggles on the road in this campaign, would suggest that this will be a tight-run affair. Thus far, two 1-1 draws have been the fruits of their showdowns at this new stadium.

The Catalan press consider it a ‘second partial exam’ for Ernesto Valverde’s men following that they passed their first in the Champions Legue on Wednesday with a 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the Camp Nou. On the front of the two main newspapers however, it has been dubbed ‘A Pruebo De Fuego’: an acid test, a litmus test, a trial by fire.

The tie is ‘the first major test for the title for Barça,’ wrote Edu Polo of Mundo Deportivo. Within it they can open up a six point deficit over their red and white foes, while a triumph ‘would also be the best gift that the club could give to celebrate its 120th anniversary’ and hand the injured Ousmane Dembélé ruled out for 10 weeks upon coming off injured early against ex-employers Dortmund.  

His and Busquets’ are the two most notable absences from Valverde’s 18-man squad list, which has been bouyed by the return of Sergi Roberto.

With an injury to Nelson Semedo, Roberto is expected to slot in at right-back while Junior Firpo covers for Jordi Alba on the left. ‘Big Sam’ Umtiti is available and has just put three matches together for the first time in an eternity, however a centre-back pairing of Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet is most likely.

The midfield is anyone’s guess due to the gaping hole left in it by Busquets. Ivan Rakitic is back in the picture and started against Dortmund, but some corners have tipped a midfield duo of Arthur and Arturo Vidal in front of stand-in pivot Frenkie de Jong assuming Busquet’s usual responsibilities.

All scoring against the Germans, Griezmann, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi will form the ‘MSG’ trident up top and look to prolong the success brought about by their improving chemistry.

For Messi, this will be his last appearance before possibly receiving the Ballon d’Or tomorrow and he will, like his colleagues, make it in the new yellow fourth kit containing the Catalan red four stripe ‘senyera’ symbol.