March 4. Diego Simeone believes his side has what it takes to reduce the gap between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid to just two points with a victory on Sunday in a heavyweight clash that will no doubt influence the title race.
Nobody expected Ernesto Valverde’s Blaugrana to be in such a position, especially when you consider how far ahead they were at Christmas, yet Los Colchoneros have been fantastic since the winter break. Diego Costa’s arrival has given the team a freshness that they lacked in the months prior, he’s brought out the best in Antoine Griezmann and Los Rojiblancos have seen an upturn in results.
Just five matches ago, many were ready to crown the Catalan giants champions when their lead was 11 points, however now it’s a totally different story. Atletico Madrid head to Catalonia full of confidence, they are in their best run of form this season and have two world class forwards to truly test Barcelona’s defence.
Defensively, the Madrid club are as solid as they have ever been under the former River Plate coach and are Spain’s in-form team.You can now see just why the Argentine was so desperate for Costa to be signed in the summer, it’s anyone’s guess what they could have achieved if they had started the campaign with both goal-scorers in place and settled.
Taking one match at a time, there has been a quiet confidence building at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, they feel there is a genuine chance they can win at the Camp Nou.What’s concerning to those within Los Cules is how the team have slipped up of late; just as Atleti have hit their stride, the two teams are not entering the match on an even footing.Griezmann has the opportunity to show those in power at Barcelona just what he can do, they’ve been interested in him in the past and may again look to him in the summer.
Many of LaLiga’s stars will be on show on Sunday, Paulinho has arguably been the best utility midfielder in the league this term, whilst in Lionel Messi you have, unquestionably, the best performer in 2017/18.
Jordi Alba and Filipe Luis are outstanding full-backs, in recent years the Brazilian would largely be considered the more effective, however Alba has really stepped up this term and has forged a crucial partnership with Messi that has aided Los Cules’ attacking moves. Sunday’s matchup presents an interesting tactical battle, aside from the stars on the pitch it will be the two coaches who also go into battle.Valverde’s switch to 4-4-2 has lessened the impact of Neymar’s departure, whilst Simeone has long been heralded for his tactical acumen.
As Barcelona saw in the clash with Chelsea, a team that swamps the central zone with busy players make things difficult for a Blaugrana team that lacks genuine width, it’s surprising Ousmane Dembele hasn’t been given more of a chance to play.
Simeone’s defensive structure is equally as resolute that they will cause the hosts difficulties, you can expect the visitors to flood the central positions and try to strike on the counter-attack.
It’s a glamour tie that few around LaLiga thought would matter just a few short weeks ago, there is now a real title race in Spain and Atletico Madrid are the form team going into the run-in. via Marca