The Camp Nou will be packed on Wednesday night in the Catalan capital as Barcelona and Atlético Madrid clash with potential title implications for the winner (and maybe the loser) of the matchup, and this should be a fantastic game.
Diego Simeone has done such a spectacular job in charge of the Colchoneros that they have done something many though was impossible in Spain: become a real title contender and actually challenge Real Madrid and Barça for the La Liga trophy. His ideas, coaching style and leadership ability are a rare package, and he will definitely create another great gameplan for Wednesday.
But Luis Enrique is not bad at his job either, and the coaching battle will be just one of the reasons why this will be such a fun game to watch. Their lineup selections will also shape the outcome of the game, because you need talented players to execute the managers' ideas on the pitch.
Before we talk about Barça's lineup, let's take a look on Simeone's predicted team for Wednesday:
Juanfran - José Giménez - Diego Godín - Filipe Luís
Antoine Griezmann - Saúl Ñíguez - Koke - Ferreira Carrasco
Nicolas Gaitán has played good football so far, but he might be sacrificed at Camp Nou, with another midfielder coming in to strengthen the defense even more. Gabi or Augusto Fernández will probably come in, but the Argentinean is young and better physically, and could be elected ahead of the club captain on Wednesday. Griezmann, Carrasco and Gameiro have also played well, and there's always Fernando Torres ready to score against Barça, one of his favorite victims.
Let's talk more about the hosts, now. Luis Enrique made a surprising selection on Saturday's game against Leganés, and made early substitutions in the second half to preserve the fitness of his best players to face Atlético.
Which means we will see the updated version of the Gala XI:
Marc-André ter Stegen
Sergi Roberto - Gerard Piqué - Javier Mascherano - Jordi Alba
Ivan Rakitic - Sergio Busquets - Andrés Iniesta
Lionel Messi - Luis Suárez - Neymar Jr
The obvious change from the Leganés game is the return of Busquets, who was rested last weekend and will play 90 minutes on Wednesday. Sergi Roberto will come back as well to take his spot at right-back, where he has been consistently great and deserves to play in a big game.
Captain Iniesta has been carefully managed by the coach, but will definitely have a big involvement against Atleti given he is in top condition after not completing the full 90 minutes in any of the last three games since returning from injury. The 'MSN' trio will play up front, and Luis Suárez is also in great fitness level after being substituted on Saturday.
The only real doubt was going to be Piqué's partner, and Sammy Umtiti appeared to be ahead of Mascherano in the pecking order. Masche is obviously more experienced and used to these games, and with Umtiti suffering a knee injury and will not be available to face Atleti, The Sheriff will play at Camp Nou.
The Barça Blaugranes community voted on their favorite starting lineup, and your selection is loud and clear: GALA!
Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar
Only Mascherano came somewhat close to breaking the starting lineup in your votes (32.7%), but the entire team was basically a unanimous decision. And it makes sense. For the big game, use all your bullets.