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Three things Barcelona need to do against Atletico Madrid

It’s first against second at the Camp Nou

Club Atletico de Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

After a tumultuous draw against strugglers Villarreal last time out, Barcelona host Atletico Madrid in a game that could have serious implications at the top of the table. After dropping points against the Yellow Submarine, Barcelona’s lead has been cut to eight points but a win can all but seal the title. Lose the game and the title race is open. So here are three things Barcelona should do to win against Atletico:

Block their right side (especially Griezmann)

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

Antoine Griezmann has been in fine form for the red and whites, scoring 13 and assisting eight, making him the top scorer as well as provider for the team. It should therefore not be a surprise to know that Atletico score primarily through their right side. With the emergence of the academy graduate Santiago Arias and Saul Niguez, Atletico are a solid wing-playing team and blocking their flanks can reduce their threat. Blocking the right side especially, can prove more beneficial as Saul has scored four goals, which is the joint second highest for the team (along with Alvaro Morata).

Pass with purpose

Villarreal CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid have a midfield of the highest quality, with a four-man formation ruling the center part of the field. Two players across the flanks striving for goals while center midfielders slog it out for ball retention - Diego Simeone has got the most out of his 4-4-2. Rodri and Thomas Partey have enjoyed a stellar partnership in the heart of the midfield, with the former even linked with a move to Manchester City. Their partnership has resulted in Atletico being masterful in stealing the ball from the opposition. Their tally of around 21 tackles won per game is the highest in the league which sets a difficult task for the pass-minded Blaugrana midfield. It’s 4-3-3 vs 4-4-2 – expect midfield overloading in the highest of proportions. While a box-to-box midfielder like Arturo Vidal would have been massively useful (he is suspended for the game), Ivan Rakitic can prove to be instrumental. The best the Blaugrana midfield can do is pass with more purpose and give the ball to Lionel Messi whenever he drops back and demands it.

Make the most of Messi

Villarreal CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Talking of Messi, the Barcelona captain has tormented the Atletico defence and has scored a whopping 28 goals against them in all competitions - the only team to concede more is Sevilla with 36. While Juventus asserted their dominance over Atletico courtesy of the venerable Cristiano Ronaldo and his splendid hat-trick, it’s time for Barcelona to do the same and strengthen their position as league leaders. The talismanic Argentinian has scored 32 times and provided 12 times - making him La Liga’s top scorer and assister, and scoring against Atletico will highlight once again his excellence in big games. With Messi set to start after being left out of the XI against Villarreal, Barcelona must make the most of their magical number 10 if they are to take all three points.

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