FC Barcelona (1st, 73pts) vs Atlético Madrid (3rd, 60pts)
Competition/Round: 2022-23 La Liga, Matchday 30
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Andreas Christensen, Ousmane Dembélé, Sergi Roberto (out)
Atlético Outs & Doubts: Marcos Llorente, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Reinildo (out), Memphis Depay (doubt)
Date/Time: Sunday, April 23, 2023, 4.15pm CET (Barcelona), 3.15pm BST/WAT (UK & Nigeria), 10.15am ET, 7.15pm PT (USA), 8.45pm IST (India)
Venue: Spotify Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: José María Sánchez Martínez
VAR: Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva
How to watch on TV: ESPN Deportes (USA), TSN 3 (Canada), Viaplay Sports 1 (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), Sports18 (India), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), others
How to watch online: ESPN+ (USA), LaLigaTV (UK), Movistar+ (Spain), others
Following a second goalless draw in a row away to Getafe to complicate their situation in La Liga and a full week of training in beautiful Catalonia, Barcelona return to action for one of the most consequential matches of the season when they welcome Atlético Madrid to the Greatest Stadium on Earth on Sunday afternoon.
The last two results and the terrible performances have cut Barça’s lead at the top of the table to 11 points, and Real Madrid’s win on Saturday momentarily shrunk that gap to only eight points. La Liga is not over yet, and another Barça failure to win on Sunday will make things very interesting with eight games to go and a very difficult schedule in the next three weeks for the leaders.
Simply put, this is the most important game of the season for the Catalans. A victory will restore their double-digit lead and slow down Madrid’s momentum, and give Barça much-needed confidence to go into three brutal clashes against Rayo Vallecano away, Real Betis and Osasuna at home and the hometown derby against Espanyol, at Cornellà.
The good news for Barça is that two crucial starters are back: Pedri and Frenkie De Jong, who have been horribly missed, return from injuries and are both expected to start on Sunday. Their creativity and intensity adds another dimension to has been a lifeless attack without them, and increases Barça’s chances of finding ways to beat a very tough, well-organized Colchonero defense.
The bad news for Barça is they are facing what has unquestionably been the hottest team in the league in the last two-plus months: Atlético have flown under the radar thanks to a terrible first half of the season, but have been simply on fire since the World Cup. Their last loss in La Liga was to Barça at the Wanda Metropolitano more than three months ago, and they come into this one on a seven-game winning streak that’s given them a real chance of finishing in second place — or maybe even better if they pull off the upset.
Diego Simeone has once again figured out how to get the best out of his team, and Antoine Griezmann has once become the side’s best player since his move from Barça to Atleti was made permanent. They have more of an attacking flair this year without losing their toughness and defensive structure, and are an absolutely brutal matchup for a Barça team low on confidence and struggling to score.
Even though the Offices of Pedri & Frenkie are once again open for business, Barça aren’t automatic favorites to win and dominate. They will be better, yes, but beating this Atleti team in their current form is a very difficult prospect even if Barça were at their very best. This will be tough, and highly competitive, and a must-win for the leaders against an opponent that knows how to make it very difficult on them.
Forget dancing. Let’s just effing win.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Eric, Balde; Pedri, Busquets, De Jong; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Gavi
Atlético (3-5-2): Oblak; Savic, Giménez, Hermoso; Molina, De Paul, Koke, Lemar, Carrasco; Correa, Griezmann
Barça get their best midfielders back in the most important game of the season so far, but Atlético are underrated and in fantastic form. This will be a thriller, but I’m trusting the good guys to find a way in a game they know they have to win: 2-1 Barça.