The destination of the 2020-21 La Liga title doesn’t rest on what happens at the Camp Nou on Saturday, but it’s safe to say that if Barcelona don’t get the three points against Atletico Madrid, they can kiss silverware goodbye for another season.
For that reason, there’s an expectation that the Catalans will look to play on the front foot from the off and try and force the issue early.
Diego Simeone’s side will be more than happy to sit and defend for the majority of the game, and then try and hit Barca on the counter attack with some pace up front via Yannick Carrasco and Marcos Llorente.
Luis Suarez won’t outsprint any of his old colleagues but he could outfox them, and how El Pistolero is handled throughout, could be one of the keys to this game.
The Uruguayan has gone off of the boil just a little of late too.
After a purple patch of 11 goals and an assist in nine games at the start of the year, Suarez has only managed three since mid-February.
Having missed the reverse fixture at the Wanda Metropolitano, he’ll be keen to show Barca what they’ve missed, and the same applies to Atleti old boy, Antoine Griezmann.
The Frenchman has never really turned up against his old employers, but his partnership with Leo Messi is bearing fruit, and he’s a real talisman for the blaugranes at present.
Eight goals and an assist in his last nine matches in all competitions is testament to that.
If he’s able to find the net or link with the Argentinian maestro once again, Atleti may find it difficult to come back.
Their recent run of three defeats and a draw in their last eight games is the poorest of the top four sides. Furthermore, they’ve not won away from home in their last five matches, and have failed to score in three.
The win at the Wanda earlier in 2020/21 was Diego Simeone’s first over Barca in La Liga, whilst the last Camp Nou fixture between the sides is the only league game where Atleti have scored more than one goal at the stadium in the past 12 years.
History is very much favouring the hosts, and this really isn’t an opportunity that should be passed up.
Ronald Koeman has generally failed spectacularly in the games where there has been something at stake, Copa del Rey final notwithstanding. Now is the time for the manager and his players to show up and put their marker down.