Barcelona versus Atlético: El 'Vice-' Clásico

Spain has a ‘Top 3’

In the last three years, Barça have won the league twice and the Champions League once, Real Madrid have won two Champions Leagues and Atlético have won a league title and twice been runners-up in the Champions League. The two finals they lost were extremely hard fought, losing one in extra-time, after conceding the equalizer in the 93rd minute, and the other being taken to penalties. We are therefore obliged to acknowledge that in Spain we do not have a ‘top two’, but a ‘top three’. Consequently, Barça vs Atlético cannot be considered as just another game in our great championship. It’s not 'El Clásico', that global brand image of Madrid-Barça, but it is ‘El Vice-clásico'.

Barça fans will be hoping for an improved showing after their last home league game.

Rebelling against the duopoly

Atlético is now on the coattails of both the others. They dispatched of Barça in both recent editions of the Champions League where Real Madrid were ultimately victorious. Against neighbours Madrid they won the 2013 Copa del Rey final in their Bernabéu backyard and, incidentally, they are the only team to have won the league in Barça’s recent dominance. In other words, Atlético now, 'eat at the table of Madrid and Barca' and from this we can now relate the image of Griezmann, who aspires to eat at the table of Messi and Cristiano. Fortunately for our football, Atlético and Griezmann have raised a rebellious flag against a duopoly that had all the blessings. Their presence both complicates and enriches the equation.

Antoine Griezmann - in the Ballon d'Or conversation.

Cholo choices

All this means that today Luis Enrique will have to put out his best. Today there is nothing new to try out, because the points are worth double. The question is what will Simeone do. He has many in-form players, who shone against Sporting the other day, but tonight is something else. Simeone is caught between the gritty model that has provided victories and the creative development that is beginning to emerge, once the wins are taken for granted. Later today we will know his line-up and from this know where Simeone stands: whether he follows the model based on aggression or looks to open up a team full of quality players, something he also has.

Simeone has a style decision to make against the champions.