La Liga action returns with a bang as exciting Atletico Madrid prepare to play host to leaders Barcelona at their brand-new stadium on Saturday night. Both rivals head into the match unbeaten and hoping to extend the positive trend.
Early pressure for Atletico Madrid
Los Rojiblancos return to domestic action with the biggest of challenges but also have Champions League to think about as Diego Simeone as his men head into October under great pressure. The 2-1 home Champions League defeat at the hands of the Premier League champions Chelsea was followed by an uninspiring goalless draw at Leganes and Atletico Madrid are desperate for a quick return to winning ways. Barcelona at home presents the toughest of challenges, however, knowing that Diego Simeone is yet to defeat Blaugrana domestically. The Argentine tactician will surely hope for a change of luck and perhaps the new venue – Estadio Wanda Metropolitano – brings it to Cholo’s boys. Atletico Madrid head into the Saturday night’s match from the fourth place in La Liga standings, six behind the leaders Barcelona and another early slump could prove to be extremely costly for the capital-based club.
Diego Simeone will have no significant selection issues as Felipe Luis and Augusto Fernandez are the only two unavailable players for the forthcoming fixture.
Football before politics
It’s been a turbulent couple of weeks in Barcelona with the Catalan club finding itself in the middle of a political problem. The Catalan region is coming off from an independence referendum which sparked unrests across the country. The referendum was held on the same day Barcelona played Las Palmas in a comfortable 3-0 victory that saw Ernesto Valverde’s men extend their fantastic run in the new season. Barcelona are enjoying a rich vein of form lasting ever since that 2-0 Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid. The Catalans have also enjoyed a perfect start to their Champions League campaign and will be keen to extend the purple patch after the international break. Leo Messi has been in a staggering form of late both for club and country and will once again be the one to watch. His brace against Las Palmas was followed by a hat-trick for Argentina at Ecuador which helped Argentina book World Cup place and no doubt Messi will be motivated to continue his goalscoring exploits. The 30-year-old Argentine has already scored 11 goals in seven La Liga matches and is dominating the scoring charts with Simone Zaza next in line with six to his name.
Ousmane Dembele is facing a lengthy layoff, whereas the Catalans will also be without Andres Iniesta and Rafinha.
Rampant Barcelona are widely expected to rub salt into Atletico Madrid’s wounds and leave the new stadium with three points in their bag. Diego Simeone’s men are experiencing a significant drop in form and we don’t see it improving against the Catalan side.
Top pick: Barcelona 2.60 (8/5) @Bet365
Alternative pick 1: Under 2.5 goals 1.95 (19/20) @188bet
Alternative pick 2: Leo Messi to score anytime 2.33 (4/3) @Unibet