Our La Liga betting expert Andrew Mount previews this mammoth-sized match at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Passions will be running high on Saturday evening when Atletico Madrid face Barcelona. Much attention will no doubt be paid to the league-leading Barcelona, who played their most recent game against Las Palmas behind closed doors in the midst of political turmoil in the region. Aside from the symbolism of them travelling to the nation’s capital in what should prove to be their biggest challenge in the league so far this season, there’s still a fine 90 minutes of football in prospect.
The form points to Barca
Though unbeaten, Atletico may come into this match frustrated with their recent efforts; a change of formation couldn’t help them capitalise on the chances they created during a 0-0 draw with Leganes, and in doing so they failed to recover from a late defeat to Chelsea in the Champions League. Barcelona, meanwhile, have bounced back encouragingly after having been heartbreakingly denied the league title by Real Madrid last season to win nine games in all competitions since their first match of the current La Liga season. Having won by two or more goals in seven of these fixtures, it’s no surprise that they already find themselves odds-on to regain the title this season.
If Ernesto Valverde’s men are to emerge victorious on the domestic front, these are the sort of games that will be vital to their cause. They have a solid record when facing Atletico, and the equivalent fixture way back in 2010 was the last time they suffered defeat against them in the league. Barca may have lost out twice since in the Champions League, but their La Liga record speaks for itself and with their rivals having had a slight wobble in the last few weeks, odds of 31/20 for the away win look generous.
Simeone’s side are strong at the back
Despite Barcelona’s obvious firepower and ability to break down their opponent’s defence, they face one of the league’s toughest backlines here. Likely to be aided by the return of Filipe Luis, Atletico have conceded just four times in the league this season and kept four clean sheets. At the same time, Diego Simeone’s side haven’t looked quite so much of a threat going forward since the summer break, having been involved in two goalless draws. Last year’s 16-goal star man Antoine Griezmann is also behind the pace, having found the net just twice in the current campaign. Odds of 11/1 for Barca to come out on top 2-0 could prove the value in the correct score market.
One of the problems for Atletico Madrid’s defence ahead of this match is, of course, that they haven’t yet faced anyone quite of the calibre of Lionel Messi this year. He arrives in Madrid in red-hot form having secured Argentina’s place at the World Cup with a crucial hat-trick against Ecuador midweek. Meanwhile, he is cruising at the summit of the ‘Top Scorers’ table in La Liga, with his 11 goals dwarfing Simone Zaza’s next-best six. The suggestion will win no awards for originality, but 19/5 for Messi to score first on his return to domestic action looks a fair price, especially in what could be a low scoring affair – given the team’s respective defensive strengths.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Messi or any of his teammates strike early in the match, as Barca have been winning at halftime in four of their matches so far this season; the 3/1 available on a Barcelona/Barcelona result could be one way to enhance their outright price. Regardless of who finds the net first though, this promises to be a tough test for both teams, underpinned by an agitated political situation which simply makes the fixture all the more fascinating.
Grosvenor Sport Predictions