LaLiga leaders Barcelona travelled to the Spanish capital with their 100% record on the line. Atlético's new Estadio Wanda Metropolitano opened its doors to Messi, Suárez, Iniesta and co. and as the final whistle blew, both sides will reflect on the relative value of the point gained.
Atlético Madrid vs Barcelona: match report
The home side, led by their talisman, Antoine Griezmann, started this game with a bang. With a vocal support dominating the Madrid evening air Simeone's troops were quickly into gear and forcing the pace of the game. And with 20 minutes on the clock, one of their young stars, 22-year old Saúl Ñiguez turned the volume up a notch with a curling right footer placed perfectly into the left-hand corner of Ter Stegen's goal.
Following that strike the game slowly changed its tone, and as Barça grabbed more possession, the rojiblancos were forced further and further into their own half. With space at a premium through the centre, the visitors looked to get down the flanks and deliver from wide. Simeone has his side well drilled though and much of the threat from the Catalans was cancelled out early. But they were getting closer.
Second half Barça pressure, Suárez scores
The threat from Barcelona seemed to grow as the second half wore on, whether due to an ever-regressing Atlético team striving to hold onto a precious three points or a more desperate effort on behalf of the guests to make their possession count. Most probably a little of both. And with the out ball not being used enough to relieve the pressure, the close efforts that had the stadium gasping with relief eventually led to an equaliser.
Sergi Roberto had come on after the hour mark and it was he who delivered the ideal ball for Luis Suárez to attack with his head. The Uruguayan had cleverly manoeuvred himself in front of his marker, Juanfran, and was able to direct the ball firmly into the ground bouncing under the diving Oblak and into the net.
An acceptable point apiece
Simeone and Valverde will have mixed views of how the game could have panned out very differently but will also, probably, both go home with an acceptance that a point was a good result. The statistics over the 90 minutes will strongly suggest that Barça came and imposed their game on the hosts, but this was in large part due to what the early goal did to the mentality of the sides. Watching on across the city, a rival to them both, and they'll be quietly smiling.
Atlético Madrid vs Barcelona: how it happened live
Atlético Madrid vs Barcelona: match preview
Saturday afternoon in the Spanish capital sees the current league leaders strut into town in what is clearly the biggest game of the season so far. As well as the intrigue of the football - Barça arrive on the back of a perfect start to the season and Messi's international heroics, while Atleti have their own point to prove following two disappointing results - there are also the background narratives of Atlético's shiny new stadium, the fallout to the Catalan independence referendum and how this result can affect the early Liga gap to holders Real Madrid. Strap in for what could be an absolute belter.
Atlético Madrid team news
Since Diego Simeone took charge of Atleti back in 2011, the rojiblancos have played Barça 11 times in LaLiga, and never taken all three points. The new stadium factor is yet to prove form-defining and the Madrid side have certainly shown enough to suggest they’ll be the toughest test so far this season for their esteemed visitors. One of the biggest surprises of the last round of the Champions League was Chelsea’s impressive performance at the new home of Atleti and although it took a late winner, few would deny that Simeone’s side were outclassed on the night. The away draw in Leganés that followed didn’t help and so this game comes with a number of question marks around where this team truly sits in the Liga pecking order this term.
Disappointing news came through from Croatia about defender Sime Vrsaljko who will struggle to make this game from the start. And that highlighted Chelsea game saw a hamstring injury picked up by Filipe Luis, and the full back could also be missing. But, as we now expect from a team that has been challenging for the top European prize in recent years, there is a decent depth to the squad and the unit knows how to play to its organised strengths. In Griezmann they have one of the most lethal finishers in the game and an expected supporting cast on the day includes Koke, Carrasco, Saúl and Correa. This should mean there’ll be enough chances to get the crowd jumping. These are the games this new mecca was built for, and a warm Madrileña night under the floodlights should be some spectacle for the viewing masses.
Barcelona team news
After the stadium silence of their last game at home to Las Palmas, the Barça players may actually appreciate the stark contrast of the noise they will be playing in at the Wanda Metropolitano. Noisy it will certainly be; in their favour it will not. But the side from Catalonia are unlikely to be phased, however, if they are then they’ll most likely give the ball to that little lad playing at number 10 and hope that he’ll do something special.
By no means are Barça a one-man team but, as we have seen at other clubs, there are moments when the outstanding player seems capable of doing what is required upon request. Atlético’s Filipe Luis remarked that the little magician is “so good he can win LaLiga himself with a mediocre team,” although clarified that this team isn’t mediocre. What this often means - more so for club than country - is that the other players feel less pressure and step up their own game. From the sorry look about Barça in the Spanish Super Cup to the team that has started the Liga and Champions League campaigns so well, it is no surprise that they start this game as favourites.
Ernesto Valverde will have to check on the fitness levels of his international returners, with several coming back from South American exertions only arriving on Friday. Uruguay’s Luis Suárez is a doubt after picking up a knee injury which would likely mean a place for Deulofeu, aiming to make another stake for a more influential role. At the back, the impressive Semedo along with Jordi Alba will look to offer width whenever possible and drive Atleti back and away from the danger zone. Barça-for-life (aka a rolling one-year contract) Iniesta says he’ll be available tp play but there are some doubts around his full fitness.
Atlético Madrid vs Barcelona: potential line-ups
Atlético Madrid XI: Oblak, Juanfran, Savic, Godín, Filipe Luis, Koke, Gabi, Saúl, Carrasco, Griezmann, Correa
Head coach: Diego Simeone
Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen, Semedo, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba, Sergi Roberto, Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta, Messi, Luis Suárez
Head coach: Ernesto Valverde
Atlético Madrid vs Barcelona live online: betting odds
Some punters may see value in doubling their money on a home win, which would bring Barça's 100% start to the season to an end. If you can't see anything other than a positive end to the blaugrana's day then consider Messi for first scorer along with an away win at 4/1. For the genius Argentine to maintain his scintillating form, check out 14/1 for another hat-trick.