Can Barca actually score a goal?
Barcelona’s form has dwindled in recent weeks to such an extent that the team haven’t managed to score a single goal in their last three games in all competitions.
The team has managed a total of 44 shots but none have gone into the back of the net. Barca have only failed to score in four straight games three times ever (most recently in April 2008) and Xavi certainly won’t want to see his team firing blanks again.
3 - Barcelona have failed to score in three successive games in a single season in all competitions for the first time since April 2008 under Frank Rijkaard (four). Cloudy. pic.twitter.com/Hcg7gUC0bV— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 17, 2023
Barca still boast a healthy lead at the top of La Liga but a defeat against an in-form Atletico would set the alarm bells ringing a tad and increase the anxiety around the Camp Nou.
Win and everything will be alright again, but it won’t be as easy as all that. Barca’s attackers are all struggling for from and will face an Atletico defense that never makes life easy.
On the plus side, Pedri and Frenkie de Jong are fit and available for the match. The return of either (but preferably both) will be a big boost for Xavi’s side.
Barca haven’t drawn three straight games in the league since December 2016 and haven’t had three consecutive goalless draws in La Liga since 1989.
Will Griezmann return to haunt Barcelona?
Antoine Griezmann is enjoying a fine season for Atletico and heads to his former home fresh from scoring a brace last time out against Almeria.
The Frenchman now has 11 goals and 8 assists in La Liga so far this season, a strong return, and may just feel he has a point to prove against Barcelona.
Antoine Griezmann has 11 league goals this season— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) April 16, 2023
He's scored 10+ goals in nine different LaLiga seasons pic.twitter.com/2Y4FkFbmK8
Griezmann never felt a good fit for Barca and so it proved. There was that documentary, the glitter celebration, trying to fit in with Messi and he just never really found his place. He’s even spoken about it ahead of the game.
“My time at Barcelona?” he told DAZN. “It was a complicated first year, as a substitute, not playing, another system, another position. I had to get used to all that. I liked my second year, I enjoyed it.”
A return to Atletico seems to have suited both parties, but Griezmann scoring on Sunday, particularly at a time when Barca are struggling for goals, would undoubtedly hurt the Catalans.
Barca’s defense has been imperious this season and will need to be against Griezmann. The Frenchman has five in his last eight league games and would surely love nothing better than to add to his tally at the Camp Nou.
What about Carrasco?
Yannick Carrasco will be at Barcelona on Sunday, and you never know he could be there permanently at the end of the season.
Barca have an option to sign the Belgium international permanently, secured in the Memphis Depay deal, and could well end up going him for at the end of the season.
Recent rumors have suggested that Barca would indeed like Carrasco but at a cheaper price than the one negotiated so far. Will Atletico negotiate? You’d be surprised.
Barca also have Ez Abde coming back from a productive loan spell at Osasuna so it’s by no means certain Carrasco will come.
Yet he will arrive at Camp Nou with two assists in his last games and will know a strong performance could help convince the Catalans one way or another.
Xavi hoping for Atletico hat-trick
Xavi may have seen his side stutter lately but the boss won’t fear Atletico as he has a perfect record against the Rojiblancos as Barcelona boss.
Granted he’s only faced them twice, but he’s overseen a 4-2 win back in February last year and a 1-0 victory earlier this year. Another win would ensures he’s only the second coach in the club’s history to win his first three games against them in La Liga (after Luis Enrique).
Barca haven’t lost at home to Atletico in their last 16 matches at the Camp Nou and Xavi is yet to see his side taste defeat at home so far this season in La Liga. Simeone, meanwhile, has exactly no wins in 15 visits to the Camp Nou.
Will we see Lamine Yamal?
Xavi has sprung something of a surprise by naming Lamine Yamal in his squad for the match. The teenager had been tipped to make his debut before the end of the season but perhaps not in such an important game as Sunday’s.
The Barcelona coach talked up Yamal ahead of the game and said he deserved the call because he’d been impressing in training with the first-team this week.
El cadete Lamine Yamal ya sabe lo que es marcarle un gol a Ter Stegen pic.twitter.com/WoD5WcdEG6— Albert Rogé (@albert_roge) April 21, 2023
Yamal will now be hoping to for some minutes and will know that Xavi has certainly given youngsters a chance since taking over. Angel Alarcon, Chadi Riad, Marc Casado, Ilias Akhomach and Estanis Pedrola are just some of the players who have debuted under Xavi.
There’s no doubt that Yamal is the most exciting of them all and there is now a chance that fans could get their first glimpse of Barca’s latest wonderkid in the first team on Sunday at the Camp Nou.