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Atletico Madrid: Docile or Dangerous?

La Liga’s second-placed side pay a visit to the Camp Nou on Saturday

Club Atletico de Madrid v Girona FC - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

While Atletico Madrid have enjoyed some impressive results to date, they have struggled on numerous occasions against top opposition, including losing 3-1 at home to bitter local rivals Real Madrid and toppling out of the Champions League to Juventus after giving away a two-goal advantage carried over from the first leg.

On the other hand, while Barelona’s may be favourites in this fixture, Arturo Vidal’s suspension and Ousmane Dembele’s hamstring injury have left them with less options going forward. Lets delve into Atletico’s current situation and see if they have what it takes to trouble the Blaugranes.

Looking at their recent form, Los Colchoneros have endured a rollercoaster ride. Clinical up front in their last two matches, they scored a total of six goals against Girona and Alaves, bouncing back from what was a major low point where they suffered a 3-0 loss to Juventus and a 2-0 defeat against Athletic Club back to back. Before this turbulent run of matches, Atletico enjoyed a five-match winning streak, all of which included clean sheets.

Juventus v Club de Atletico Madrid - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Aside from the aforementioned defeats, Atleti have actually excelled at the back this season, conceding 19 goals to date at a remarkable average of 0.6 goals per game. First choice keeper Jan Oblak has kept a monstrous 17 clean sheets, while Jose Gimenez has proven to be as much of a rock at the back as ever with 13 clean sheets. Despite being out for a few games following a muscle injury, captain Diego Godin still played a part in all but three of Atletico’s league clean sheets and bagged three goals and an assist along the way, while Felipe Luis has proven to be both a reliable left-back and a solid supporting option on the attack, with two goals and two assists to his name. Atletico are spoiled for choice in the right-back position with both Santiago Arias and Juanfran as stellar options. Veteran Juanfran has been involved in 10 of Atletico’s La Liga clean sheets, while Santiago Arias has seen out 12 clean sheets and has both a goal and an assist to his name.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

While the task of overcoming Atletico’s defence may seem daunting, the same cannot be said about their attack. While 45 La Liga goals may be impressive, this tally is still significantly less than Barcelona’s 79 goals thus far in the league campaign. While Los Colchoneros may have done well to defeat the likes of Alaves by four goals and Juventus by two goals in the first leg of their Champions League clash, they have failed on numerous occasions to produce against high-calibre opposition. They suffered a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Juventus in their Champions League second-leg clash, and lost 3-1 to Real Madrid in a humiliating home defeat. In addition, they have failed to register a victory against any of their rivals at the top of La Liga, including Sevilla, Valencia, Real Madrid and the Blaugranes during the course of this season.

Upon assessing Atletico’s attacking options, it seems to be Antoine Griezmann who is carrying the Atletico front line with 13 goals and seven assists to his name in La Liga. The injury-plagued Diego Costa has had an underwhelming season at best, with only two goals in 15 appearances, while Croatian Nikola Kalinic has also only managed two goals in 16 La Liga appearances. While recent arrival Alvaro Morata has shown consistency thus far on the offensive with four goals and one assist in eight matches, he remains doubtful for the clash with a sprained ankle. All in all, the Atletico attack is spread thin, with Diego Costa and Borja Garces Moreno both also doubtful through injury.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Given the current situation with Atletico’s front line, it seems that Griezmann will once again be tasked with generating his side’s goalscoring opportunities. This means that the Blaugranes’ defence should find their job of containing Atletico’s attack to be easier than usual. In terms of Atletico’s defence, while they may seem to be an impenetrable wall at times, Barca has proven their ability to score against top opposition time and again this season, and in a tight clash such as this, one goal may be enough to shut out Los Colchoneros. Anything short of three points in this match will be a disappointment for the Blaugranes, who now have the opportunity to completely shut out the possibility of Atletico catching up to them in what has been a dream La Liga run.

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