La Liga is back! After two weeks of international break that always look like two years, we finally get a chance to watch Barcelona football again. And wow, is it a great game. The Blaugrana travel to Vicente Calderón to face Atlético Madrid, in one of the toughest, most important matches of the season that already happens on the third round of the campaign.
Barça's last memory of a Calderón visit is the sweetest of them all: it was against the Colchoneros at their home that the Catalan giants won the first of three titles last season, taking the Spanish league with a hard-fought 1-0 victory thanks to a Lionel Messi goal. Since that day, another game of this rivalry has been widely expected, and it happens on Saturday.
Tactical aspects are always huge, so let's take a look at what starters the coaches might pick this weekend:
Atlético de Madrid (4-4-2)
Juanfran - Godín - Giménez - Gámez
Torres - Gabi - Tiago - Koke
Griezmann - Martínez
Diego Simeone has a few decisions to make, especially at the left-back and striker positions. After a very solid performance against Sevilla in the last league match, Jesús Gámez has a good chance to feature again, even though he's originally a right-back. But returning Brazilian Filipe Luís could be the chosen one, depending on how his physical status evolves until gameday.
At striker, Cholo will have to choose between Fernando Torres and Jackson Martínez. The Colombian scored in Seville, although El Niño did have a good game as well. No matter which striker starts, Barça should pay maximum attention to Antoine Griezmann, who had a spectacular start to the season, and will be lively and free to play wherever he wants.
FC Barcelona (4-3-3):
Roberto - Mascherano - Vermaelen - Alba
Rakitic - Busquets - Iniesta
Messi - Suárez - Neymar
The theme of this young season continues: plenty of headaches for Luis Enrique. He still hasn't been able to field his favorite XI due to numerous injuries, and that's the case again on Saturday: goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is out for three weeks with a calf issue, and Dani Alves is still days away from his return. Gerard Piqué is still suspended, and while he will fight to revoke his four-game suspension once again, it's very unlikely that he makes himself available for the Calderón clash; that means Javier Mascherano and Thomas Vermaelen will play together for the third straight game, and they hope to keep three consecutive clean sheets. Behind them is German keeper Ter Stegen, who will finally make his La Liga debut. Sergi Roberto is recovering well from injury, and should be ready to go.
But the attacking six are intact: the Gala Midfield of Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Andrés Iniesta are fully healthy and ready to go, as well as the 'MSN' trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar Jr.. We always hate international breaks, but this was actually good for the Barça strikers, especially for the Brazilian. After months of vacations and illnesses, Neymar has finally had a chance to properly train, and his 60 minutes with his national team during the week should be very helpful for his form. We should be able to see a better Neymar, and that's fundamental to give the Treble winners chances against the Rojiblancos.