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Simeone on one side, Messi on the other


It's the moment of truth at the Camp Nou today. A recent eleven-point advantage for Barça is now five, thanks to the three draws that Valverde did not plan on. Simeone's Atlético have pursued them with that hunter-like rhythm of wolves, with an assured and unflagging run. Atlético are very good. They have as many points now as they had at this point in their title-winning side of 2013/14 (precisely as they went to the Camp Nou then too) and the Costa-Griezmann partnership has reached its peak. They are backed by four formidable midfielders, a tough defence, and are completed with a great goalkeeper. And everyone works as one.

Catching fire | Atlético Madrid's Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa.
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Catching fire | Atlético Madrid's Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa.Juanjo MartínEFE

A great Atleti, face an unplayable Messi

A great team at a great moment, although maybe they are a little thin across the squad following recent departures. We'll see if that causes issues in the future, but today they have all their key players, and all in good form. Another thing, however, is the magnitude of today's challenge. Barça do not have that 'Gurkha' spirit of Atlético, nor is their new model completely finished, yet. But they are blessed with great players and, above all, they have the uniqueness of Messi. There are no strategies that can control him, Simeone confessed yesterday. Many times a player goes out against someone they can't do anything about. Teammates and rivals are in the hands of their inspiration.

Singular | Leo Messi for FC Barcelona.
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Singular | Leo Messi for FC Barcelona.NurPhotoNurPhoto via Getty Images

Wishing for a fitting Liga tribute

If Atleti win this afternoon the gap will be just two points and that will truly open up LaLiga. For me, Barça would accept a draw as it would keep Atlético at a two-game distance. A culé victory would kill off the championship, one that Real Madrid had already resigned themselves to so long ago, and one that Atlético have sustained with their impressive pursuit. An indulgent game that arrives with the memory of Quini still fresh in our painful thoughts. This game will pay tribute to him, with sensitivity from the Barça hierarchy, and nothing we can desire more is that the game reflects his way of being and understanding football.