Atlético Madrid (4th, 27pts) vs FC Barcelona (1st, 38pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Saturday
Competition/Round: 2022-23 La Liga, Matchday 16
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Robert Lewandowski, Jordi Alba (out)
Atlético Madrid Outs & Doubts: Mario Hermoso (out)
Date/Time: Sunday, January 8, 2023, 9pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 8pm GMT (UK), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 1.30am IST (India, Monday)
Venue: Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain
Referee: Jose Luis Munuera Montero
VAR: Alejandro José Hernández Hernández
How to watch on TV: ESPN Deportes (USA), Not Available (Canada, Spain), Viaplay Sports 1, ITV 4 (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), Sports18 (India), others
Following a thrilling win in the Copa del Rey against Intercity in midweek, Barcelona return to La Liga action for the marquee matchup of the weekend in Spain as they travel to the capital to face Atlético Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday Night Fútbol.
Barça come into this one in first place thanks to Villarreal’s surprising victory over Real Madrid on Saturday, which means the Blaugrana have a chance to extend their lead at the top of the table once again to three points.
But the job won’t be easy as the Catalans will have to go up against one the toughest atmospheres in the country and what is always a brutal opponent in Diego Simeone’s Colchoneros, who are beginning to find themselves once again after struggling in the months before the World Cup break, which included a shocking fourth place finish in their Champions League group.
Perhaps a challenge for the league title is out of reach for Simeone’s side at this point, but they can begin dreaming of it if they get a win against the leaders and find themselves eight points away from the top with a long way to go.
Former Barça striker Antoine Griezmann has been one of the few bright spots in their season and will be looking for some revenge against his former club on Sunday. Atlético’s defense is not the same as previous years but remains strong and tough to break down, especially against a team like Barça that can have trouble creating at times.
Xavi Hernández will make his first trip to the Wanda as Barça boss, and apart from the loss in El Clásico three months ago he has had a lot of success away from home with the Catalans. Atleti away is a totally different challenge, however, and getting a win in this one, especially without Robert Lewandowski and a crucial attacking piece like Jordi Alba, won’t be easy.
But Real’s loss will be a source of motivation, and virtually ending whatever hopes of a title run that Atlético have will also be good news. Barça have to play well, be clinical with their chances (a tough ask lately), and find a way to get all three points.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Kounde, Christensen, Balde; Gavi, De Jong, Pedri; Raphinha, Fati, Dembélé
Atlético (4-4-2): Oblak; Molina, Savic, Giménez, Reinildo; Llorente, Barrios, Kondogbia, Carrasco; Griezmann, Félix
Barça have mostly played very well and won their big road games in La Liga, but without Lewandowski I’m skeptical of their ability to have enough firepower in this one: 1-1 draw.