Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid: Barca Will Emerge Victorious in Big La Liga Bout

Alex HallCorrespondent IIIDecember 16, 2012

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 26: Lionel Messi of Barcelona is challenged by Koke Resurreccion of Atletico Madrid during the La Liga match between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona at Vicente Calderon Stadium on February 26, 2012 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)
Angel Martinez/Getty Images

It's a battle of La Liga's No. 1 and No. 2 teams in this contest that will prove why Barcelona is the league's current best team.

Atletico Madrid was embarrassed by Barcelona last season when you consider the 7-1 aggregate defeat the former saw. While Diego Simeone's team has proven to be far more formidable than last season's incarnation, Barcelona hasn't exactly gotten any worse since that time.

Cesc Fabregas likely won't be suiting up for Barca in this one but Dani Alves' return to the pitch will at least fill a void defensively for the team.

Meanwhile on offense, Lionel Messi is just the man to break through an Atletico defense that has surrendered just three goals in the last seven fixtures.

Recently, Messi famously broke Gerd Muller's record for most goals in a calendar year and should add to his current total of 88 in this game. His 23 La Liga goals give him more than Valencia, Levante, Sevilla and others have scored as a team this season.

This is not to knock against what has been a solid Atletico defense in recent games, but rather an educated guess considering Messi's historic year on offense.

Ultimately the offensive output is what will decide this contest in favor of Barcelona. Radamel Falcao is indeed the league's No. 2 scorer.

Unfortunately for him, his opposition hasn't surrendered more than two goals since Oct. 20 against Deportivo in a game it still won. Falcao has proven to be a tremendous offensive talent for his team this season but his unit won't be able to match Barca's output.

Barcelona has scored 15 more goals than its opponent so far this season and given up four less goals. Those stats would suggest that not only have Messi and co. proved to be La Liga's most dangerous offense but the defense is slightly better than Atletico's as well.

Xavi Hernandez told Joseph Wilson of the Associated Press (via National Post): "The game against Atletico is one of the most attractive matches in the league. They are playing like their coach wants, [and] Falcao can decide the match."

That statement is true but the final part is more Hernandez being overly respectful of his opponent. Barcelona has just proven to be a more complete team so far this season, as evident by the fact the team is ranked just above Atletico in the current standings.