It is common knowledge that Barcelona have a rival from Madrid, but over the last few seasons, a new team from the capital of Spain has become a real rival for the Catalan giants.
Atlético Madrid have become a Spanish giant thanks to a formidable job done by Diego Simeone over the last half-decade. He slowly build a marvelous squad, built on quality and work ethic, players who blindly obey to the orders of the manager and play great football even though it doesn't look beautiful all the time. Barça have faced Atlético a lot since 2014, and every game has been great, difficult and hard-fought.
It will not be different on Wednesday night at Camp Nou, when these two sides clash again looking for a victory to stay close to Real Madrid in the early stages of the La Liga season. The fact that Atleti is a title contender in Spain is fantastic on its own, which is why Wednesday's match will have title implications.
This should be great.
Date/Time: Wednesday, September 21, 2016, 10pm local time (CET), 9pm BST (UK), 4pm ET, 1pm PT (US), 1:30am IST (India, next day)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: David Fernández Borbalán
TV listings: beIN SPORTS (US & Canada), beIN SPORTS En Español (US & Canada - Spanish), Sky Sports 2 (UK), Sony Six SD/HD (India), Movistar+, Canal+ Partidazo (Spain), elsewhere
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Luis Enrique has to worrry about injuries for nearly every game since last season, and just when we thought this was not going to be the case this week, the last training session prior to the Atlético match brought bad news: defender Samuel Umtiti sprained the lateral ligament on his left knee and has been ruled out for two weeks. The Frenchman won't return to the pitch until after the international break, which is a shame given that Umtiti was playing spectacular football.
The good news for Lucho is that he still has two pretty good center-backs to use against Atleti. Gerard Piqué and Javier Mascherano formed the best pairing in football last season, and even though Umtiti's arrival broke up the Geri-Masche duo, they won't have any problems coming back together to face the Colchoneros' quick attack. They will try to avoid shots as much as possible, but Ter Stegen will be on goal to stop any chances if they happen. Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba are the starting full-backs, and will need to be at their best to stop Atleti's wing play and keep the defense strong.
In midfield, Sergio Busquets returns as the holding midfielder after being rested in last Saturday's win against Leganés, and the best pivote on Earth will have plenty of work to do, which is why he didn't play at the weekend and will be in top physical shape on Wednesday. Ivan Rakitic and Andrés Iniesta were both substituted against Leganés, which means they'll definitely start ahead of Busi to complete Barça's strongest midfield trio.
To finish the side, the 'MSN' trio. All three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar scored against Leganés and reached an incredible mark of 250 goals as a trio in just two years together. Messi loves to score against Atleti (he's found the net 21 times when facing the Colchoneros), but he'll need the Pistolero and the Brazilian Magician at the top of their games to break down the best defense on Earth.
Atlético had a surprisingly poor start to the season, with offensive struggles and two disappointing draws against newly promoted teams, not looking as strong as usual. But three games, three clean sheets, 11 goals scored and three wins later, Simeone's men look pretty damn good, and they will come to Camp Nou looking to do what they do best: defend in a way nobody else is able to, and be brutally efficient with the ball to make the Catalans bleed.
Even though Cholo has lost all but one of his meetings against Luis Enrique's Barça, he will try that formula again and has two Champions League eliminations in three years to prove his ideas work. Let's see if it reaps results again on Wednesday.
FORM GUIDE (most recent first)
Atlético Madrid: WWWDD
Barcelona: Ter Stegen | Roberto, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba | Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta | Messi, Suárez Neymar
Atlético Madrid: Oblak | Juanfran, Giménez, Godín, Filipe Luís | Augusto, Saúl, Koke | Griezmann, Gameiro, Carrasco
This is never fun or easy, even though Lucho's record is pretty good. This is without a doubt the best Atlético Madrid team Barça ever faced in terms of quality, and with their manager, they'll do some damage at Camp Nou. I don't see a winner or lots of goals, so I'll settle for a 1-1 draw.