Seven games, seven wins, most goals scored, least conceded. It’s safe to say Barcelona have had a very strong start to the La Liga season, and any team that wins its first seven games in a league season must be at least a little good.
But it’s also safe to say Barça haven’t really been tested this season, and a lot of fans are worried about the state of the team ahead of the really big games. We won’t have to wait long to find out how good this Barça team is, thankfully, because the first giant game of the season has arrived.
The Blaugrana travel to the incredible Wanda Metropolitano, the new amazing home of Atlético Madrid, for a meeting with one of the top teams in the world. Diego Simeone has transformed the Colchoneros into a really, really, really, really strong team, and even though they don’t play the prettiest football in the world, it’s effective, it’s efficient and it’s really hard to beat.
It’s not really necessary to say that Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco can cause nightmares to any defense, and Atleti don’t really seem to be missing the Vicente Calderón, with the Wanda instantly becoming their new fortress. The only team able to win there this season is Chelsea with a last-second goal in the Champions League three weeks ago, so Barça will really need to be at the top of their game to get a good result in Atlético’s new home.
The question is: are Barça at the top of their game? Are they even close to it? Can we really trust the perfect start to the season? Is Ernesto Valverde really a good coach? We’ll find out.
MATCH INFO, TV/STREAMING
Date/Time: Saturday, October 14, 2017, 8:45pm local time, 7:45pm (UK & Nigeria), 2:45pm, 11:45am PT (USA), 12:15am IST (India, Sunday)
Venue: Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain
Television: beIN SPORTS (USA & Canada), Sky Sports Main Event / Football (UK), SuperSport 7 (Nigeria), SONY TEN 2 (India)
Online streaming: beIN SPORTS CONNECT (USA & Canada), Sky GO (UK), FuboTV (7-day free trial, click here to sign up)
(Listings via LiveSoccerTV)
The Champions League is usually the most important competition, but the next Champions League game is at home against Olympiacos, the weakest team in the group, so that game should definitely not be a priority over this Saturday’s game. This is the first real chance to see the team against a top opponent at full strength, so Valverde shouldn’t save anyone for Wednesday and field his best side at the Wanda.
The best side today doesn’t have Ousmane Dembélé, unfortunately, but it must have Nélson Semedo. There is a weird pattern developing with Semedo: start a game, be out of the squad for next one. It’s been like this since Nelsinho join the club, and it’s honestly upsetting. There is no doubt Semedo is the best full-back in the squad, right or left, and he must start every game.
With Aleix Vidal left out of the squad and Sergi Roberto not impressing at right-back this season (predictably), Semedo must start against Atlético, prove his worth and then start every game after this one. It’s really that simple.
Another player who must start this one is Denis Suarez. Denis has been the best Suárez at Barça this season, and that’s not something we thought would happen. Since Dembélé’s injury Valverde has been trying different players on the wing, and Denis is the one who’s performed better. If he’s up front with Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez, the attack will look fluid and dangerous, just like it was against Las Palmas two weeks ago.
Thanks to the lack of depth in the squad and the injury to Dembélé, it’s really not hard to figure out which is the best Barça XI at this moment. Here’s hope that Valverde already knows it and will pick it against Atlético.
Atlético Madrid (4-4-2):
Oblak; Juanfran, Godín, Lucas, Filipe Luís; Koke, Saúl, Thomas, Carrasco; Griezmann, Correa
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Denis, Messi, Suárez
As good as the results have been, the performances lately haven’t really been that encouraging ahead of the first big test of the season: 1-1 draw. If that.