LaLiga

Atletico Madrid - Barcelona: preview, team news, predicted XIs

All the latest team news ahead of the LaLiga week 10 match between Atlético Madrid and Barcelona at the Metropolitano on Saturday 21 November.

Atletico Madrid - Barcelona: preview, team news, predicted XIs
PEPE ANDRES DIARIO AS

Diego Simeone has constructed a CV as solid as his famous defensive brick wall since returning to Atlético Madrid as manager in 2011. In almost a decade at the club, the combative midfielder has transferred his all-action mania to the touchline and overturned Atlético’s historic 14-year Real Madrid curse, transforming the Rojiblancos from stylish lightweights into heavyweight contenders. But there is one black mark on his resumé, a scratch that El Cholo just hasn’t been able to get to, even when the formidable figure of Mono Burgos had his back: Simeone has never beaten Barcelona in LaLiga.

The Catalan giants have proven something of a mental block for Simeone, a manager renowned for his ability to flip the odds even if the material he has at his disposal is lacking. In 28 games against Barcelona Simeone’s Atlético have won three. Two of those were in the Champions League quarter-finals and one in the Spanish Super Cup. In LaLiga, Simeone’s record against Barça is 11 defeats and six draws. No other side comes within a country mile of Barcelona’s stranglehold on Atleti, whose only consolation has been nicking the 2013-14 Liga title from the grasp of their nemesis on the final day of the season at Camp Nou in an almost inevitable 1-1 draw. A match against Barcelona is not Sisyphean for Simeone: he has yet to shove the rock to the top of the hill.

But, for 14 years, all Madrid had to do was pull on the white shirt and victory was theirs. When Simeone arrived at a middling club with a middling managerial record nobody genuinely expected him to turn tip the balance of power in the capital so convincingly. And Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona is not the Barça of Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Tata Martino, Luis Enrique or Ernesto Valverde. Koeman’s Barcelona are a by-product of an institutional implosion at Camp Nou, a colossal error of judgment that sought style over substance, denting Quique Setién’s hard-won and deserved reputation and eventually costing Josep Maria Bartomeu the presidency.

And to hammer home the point, it has been Atlético who have made strides this season while Barcelona have barely managed to put one foot in front of the other. Among Koeman’s first acts was to jettison Luis Suárez, adding to the considerable chagrin of Leo Messi. Barça’s loss has been Simeone’s gain, Messi’s former accomplice now nudging João Félix toward greatness. Antoine Griezmann’s comparative form for Barcelona only paints Simeone’s stock in bolder shades of red and white. Only swashbuckling leaders Real Sociedad have scored more than Atlético, who have conceded just twice in seven games.

Suárez though will be absent on Saturday, as will Lucas Torreira, both after testing positive for coronavirus. Balancing the board are Sergio Busquets and Ansu Fati, denied to Koeman when he needs them most. Individual brilliance is never more than a dropped shoulder away with Félix and Messi on the pitch but this will be a contest of tactical acumen, a case of making the best of the pieces remaining. Simeone is a master of the art but Barça too have occasionally thrived on adversity.

Atlético Madrid predicted XI vs Barcelona

Oblak; Trippier, Savic, Giménez, Hermoso; Kondogbia, Saúl; Koke, Llorente, Correa; Félix

Barcelona predicted XI vs Atlético Madrid

Ter Stegen; Alba, Lenglet, Piqué, Roberto; Pjanic, De Jong; Dembélé, Pedri, Griezmann; Messi

Atlético Madrid vs Barcelona: injuries and suspensions

Both sides are missing key players and Simeone will be without both of his strikers in the Metropolitano. Diego Costa remains sidelined through injury and Suárez with covid-19. Torreira is unavailable for the same reason while Sime Vrsaljko and Héctor Herrera are also out. Vitolo and Stefan Savic should make the squad pending late fitness tests.

Koeman is without Ansu Fati and Sergio Busquets while Samuel Umtiti remains in the treatment room. Back-up central defender Ronald Araújo is also out meaning a call-up for Barça B’s Óscar Minguenza. Philippe Coutinho returns for Barça after injury to add some guile from the bench.

Atlético Madrid vs Barcelona: prediction

It’s hard to see beyond a 1-1 draw when Atlético and Barcelona meet and it’s necessary to go back to September 2011, just before the Simeone era began, for a proper hammering when Barça stuck five past the visitors without reply. The affair has been settled by more than a one-goal difference just three times since then so a close encounter is likely. Given Barcelona’s recent form this is the best chance Simeone has had in a while to break his duck and the comfort of home may just see Atlético over the line: 2-1.