Barcelona take on Atletico Madrid in La Liga on Sunday in what promises to be a stiff test of the champions’ shaky away form and will see Antoine Griezmann return to his former team for the first time since leaving for the Camp Nou in a €120 million deal in the summer.
The Frenchman is expected to face a tough reception from the Wanda Metropolitano crowd. He came close to leaving the season before but rejected a move in his infamous La Decision documentary and then signed a contract extension designed to keep him at the club until 2023.
Of course that did not happen and Griezmann joined Barca after a fair bit of wrangling that saw Atletico complain to FIFA over Barca, arguing they agreed the deal before the forward’s buyout clause dropped to €120m.
Atletico fans whistled Griezmann during his final game before he left for Barca and made their feelings pretty clear after he signed for the Catalan giants.
| |— Eleven Sports (@ElevenSports_UK) July 13, 2019
Antoine Griezmann's signing for Barcelona hasn't gone down too well at Atletico Madrid's Wanda where a plaque honouring him having played over 100 games for Atleti has been defaced.
Image: @Tala_Radio pic.twitter.com/RnMM47VNQ4
Griezmann said after signing for Barcelona that he knows he will be whistled when he returns to Atletico Madrid.
“No. I know that there will be whistles. It’s part of football: they really loved me and when someone leaves, it can hurt. It was like that at Real Sociedad: my first visit back wasn’t easy, but I will always have La Real and Atleti in my heart because they gave me so much.”
Source | Marca
Yet for all the rancour Griezmann has been missed at Atletico. The club splashed out €126m on Joao Felix and made Alvaro Morata’s loan deal permanent but have only scored 16 goals in 14 La Liga games.
The move has not been a resounding success for Barcelona and Griezmann yet either. The 28-year-old has five goals and three assists but has looked lost out wide on the left and is taking time to adjust to life at the Camp Nou.
Sunday provides the perfect chance for Griezmann to show his worth on a ground he knows well. Barca have lost three times already on the road this season but need a win to keep pace with Real Madrid at the top of the table.
Griezmann is all over the front pages on Sunday with the headlines ‘Test of Fire’ and there’s no doubt he may have to put up with a fair bit of stick from his former fans.
Today's frontpages:— The Spanish Football Podcast (@tsf_podcast) December 1, 2019
️ Mundo Deportivo and Sport both call tonight's game at the Wanda Metropolitano a "test of fire" for Barça as MD say "Griezmann will get a hostile reception on his return after his controversial exit" pic.twitter.com/lu51UjPOJc
Ernesto Valverde’s side have drawn their two visits to the Wanda Metropolitano 1-1 but face an Atletico side that have won just one of their last six games in all competitions and were beaten 1-0 at Juventus in midweek in the Champions League.
Griezmann is almost guaranteed a start on Sunday with Ousmane Dembele now out for 10 weeks and comes into the match with his confidence boosted after a goal against Dortmund in midweek.
There have also been more encouraging signs in recent games that his understanding with Messi and Suarez is improving, and Barca will be hoping a return to the Wanda Metropolitano can bring out the best in Griezmann on Sunday.