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LA LIGA | BARÇA - ATLÉTICO

La Liga will have a different feel after this clash

Today Barca and Atletico are likely to help us determine where the championship will be heading in May. The Catalans arrive in good condition, Cholo’s troops with doubts.

La Liga will have a different feel after this clash
JAVIER GANDUL DIARIO AS

Even at the end of January, just past the midway point of the season, today Barca and Atlético are likely to help us determine where the championship will be heading in May. The Catalans have been busy but are ready, while Cholo’s troops have some doubts following recent disappointments.

The coaches of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid both agree that this afternoon will not decide the champions of Spain’s top division but neither can deny that the meeting between the two co-leaders (Barca still with a game in hand) will mark a before and after point in the competition.

If Barcelona win, it will give them a major boost. It would put them three points ahead of Atlético, would help their goal difference and they’d still have their postponed game against struggling Sporting de Gijon to play which could really enhance their league position. If instead Atletico were to win, putting the brakes on the Luis Enrique’s team in their own back yard, then the picture would be very different and swords would continue to be crossed at the top. This would be to the delight of Real Madrid, who will be watching the game today more than ever with a predilection for the Rojiblancos.

Both teams come to battle at very different moments. While Barcelona are riding out the additional January fixtures caused by the Club World Cup in Japan, Atlético have seen a drop in their effectiveness in front of goal that has cost them in the Copa del Rey and has handed over a slight advantage in the league after their draw last week at home to the far from impressive Valencia.

It’s been a while since Barça turned up firing on all cylinders for a full 90 minutes, however this is something that happens during the season, and all that really matters is the results.

At Atlético there could be understandable doubts after two bad results and there is a need to change something. Simeone will look to use the virtues of his team with a focus on their defence. Yesterday, Cholo tested a markedly defensive eleven with the aim of using the pace of Carrasco and Griezmann on the counter attack. Barça will, more than likely, see a lot of the ball, keeping possession, moving it quickly and then look to the excellence of their three forwards when faced up one against one.

It will be a game of duels in which, as is often the case, someone will aim to cage Messi, wherever he decides to roam, where the clash between Godin and Suarez will test the referee and in which Neymar will look to have the last word. The Brazilian arrives bruised after the three match-ups against Athletic, but is in impressive form.