The international break has come to an end, and the players are ready to rock their club jerseys once again. Barcelona travel to Madrid to face Atletico who pose a genuine title threat this year. The fixture promises to be anyone’s game and the winner will end the day top of table, with Sevilla set to play on Sunday. Both clubs have their own sets of weaknesses, but the team which capitalizes on their strengths will take the three points. After a bad defeat against Betis at home last time out, Barcelona need a win more than ever. Let’s look at the three ways Barcelona can win this game:
Take advantage of Atletico’s makeshift defence
With two Uruguayan stars at the helm, with experience and sheer quality running from both the flanks and a world-class keeper between the sticks, Atletico have a rock solid defence. However, injuries to Diego Godin, Jose Gimenez and Juanfran mean they will have to play a makeshift defence against the Blaugranes. It will be interesting to see Lucas play in the centre due to the team’s lack of options. Barcelona must take advantage of this situation with their wealth of attacking options. The absence of Godin is a big boost, and Barcelona need to make the best use of attacking set piece opportunities whenever available.
Stifle Atletico’s versatility
Atletico are renowned for their world-class strikers and the number of goals they score. With the likes of Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann manning the attacking front, goals were expected to rain. Unfortunately, Atletico have scored just 16 in 12 matches which is lower than their high standards. The highest scorer is Griezmann with just three to his name as Costa is yet to open his league account. However, the sheer number of goalscorers shows how versatile Atletico are and how hungry the players are to score. With over nine different goalscorers, Atletico have shown their ability to score whatever it takes. The midfield is a goldmine with hotshot Saul Niguez and rising star Rodrigo manning the center of the park. The latter especially, is playing like a star and is a versatile passer of the ball who has an eye for tackling. Atletico like to steal the ball off their opponents and to do so, they press around-the-clock. But they tend to lose the ball, and their 80% passing accuracy is far lower than Barcelona’s. So the team must have a pressure absorbing setup, one that has an eye for stray passes. It won’t be long till Atletico make a mistake which may lead to a goal.
Shore up the right side of the defence
Barcelona have been suffering from defensive errors primarily from the right side of the pitch. Sergi Roberto has been good when combining with Lionel Messi and Ivan Rakitic for attacks, but his inability to combine with Gerard Pique has cost important goals. There is no doubt about his versatility, but he lacks proper defensive coordination and his contribution in his own penalty box hasn’t been up to the mark. Atletico have superb wing players like Lemar, Correa, Gelson Martins and Felipe Luis to name a few and they can make Barca suffer with their pace and individual skills. Also, after watching Junior Firpo’s excellent performance at Camp Nou, it is evident that there is a lot of work to be done on the right side of the pitch. If Roberto links up well with Pique for his defensive runs, Barcelona can drastically cut down the chances of committing defensive errors.