Tonight sees the fourth game at the Wanda Metropolitano, and it's the small matter of a visit by Barcelona. It's the Blaugrana's first away trip since the events of 1 October; there can be no getting away from that. But there's also no getting away from the fact that what's at stake this evening is neither Spain's state model, nor article 155, nor whether Carles Puigdemont said what some say he did, or said what others say he did. What's at stake are three big points for both sides. It's a match that launches Atlético Madrid's new, beautiful stadium once and for all. This game will be seen by many more than watched the Chelsea clash, and it would be a shame if it sent out to the world an image of a divided country; which, by the way, would only be good news for the secessionists.
I was glad to see the pre-match squabbles focusing on football...
So I was glad to see arguments of a footballing - and therefore harmless - nature in the build-up on Friday. Diego Simeone was asked about the state of the pitch, and Atlético's head coach, who is (like so many others) a little tired of Barça's nitpicking on the issue, batted the question away for six. "If you come over to my house for lunch, I provide the table cloth, the plates and the glasses," 'El Cholo' replied, drawing on his renowned potency in his use of the Spanish language. Barcelona counterpart Ernesto Valverde, meanwhile, wasn't fazed, quipping back: "We'll adapt to the crockery, to everything..." As we all know, what really matters at the end of the day is what's on the menu. We'll have to find out which of the two chefs, Simeone or Valverde, rustles up the finest fare.
All eyes will be on newly-proclaimed Argentine national hero Messi
All eyes will of course be on Leo Messi, who returns to LaLiga duties now finally crowned a national hero in Argentina: pretty much the only thing he had left to do. He'll be tired, but in high spirits. He no longer has Neymar by his side, Luis Suárez's knee is giving the Uruguayan headaches, but, though he drifts in and out of the play, you can rely on Messi to forge an attack of substance all by himself - be the turf long and dry, or short and damp. That's what's facing an Atlético side not short on assets to boast about themselves: their goalkeeper, Jan Oblak; Diego Godín, as strong as ever in defence; a midfield brimming with academy graduates; Antoine Griezmann; the emerging Ángel Correa; the Torres effect... A mouth-watering game at a splendid stadium. Neither the time, nor the place for other issues.