Barcelona-Atlético, almost another Clásico
In these recent years, with Atlético raising their level (in reality what they’ve done is recover their historical position), the return of the great rivalry between the two big Madrid sides has been welcomed both in this column and a fair few other places. The talk of a 'decent rival' for the derby has disappeared into history. Atlético are now as much of a handful for Madrid as they ever were in their greatest eras. But there’s something more to celebrate with the return of Atleti: the appearance of what is almost a second Clásico with their games against Barça. Madrid against Barcelona, a demanding level of competition, two styles of football going head to head. There’s palpable excitement.
Atlético are no longer in the group of teams Barcelona can defeat nonchalantly. The Madrid side now share the top of the table with them, they knocked the Catalans out of the Champions League, they beat them to the Liga title in the Camp Nou itself. With their rugged style, their football of utter application in every part of the pitch and their eagerness to punish any mistake from their rivals, Simeone’s Atlético isn’t a team that goes to any ground expecting defeat. Not even to the Camp Nou, no matter how impressive the attacking trident, and boy is it impressive, of Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar. Two artists and a tireless threat.
An outstanding match, which the world is beginning to pay attention to with singular interest. Not as much as the other Clásico, the genuine one, but it’s getting closer. More so in Latin America, thanks to the number of players from that region who play for both teams. Atleti come into the match in shock, because Celta managed to do what seemed impossible: score three against them. But Simeone and company aren't given to self-pity, no doubt they’ve already moved on. Barça have everyone available, including Jordi Alba, who has a lot to say when Luis Enrique's side are going forward. Two styles of play, the same ambition. A massive game. A partidazo.
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