The La Liga title is still on the line but Barcelona will have the chance to officially reign supreme this weekend. La Blaugrana will be traveling to the capital to face off with Atletico Madrid in arguably the biggest game left in the season.
If the Catalans are able to win in Madrid, they will be crowned the champions of La Liga. But if by some chance Atletico Madrid pull off an upset, the league could get very interesting very quickly.
The high-profile match will be taking place on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. for those on the east coast so be sure to tune in for what will be guaranteed excitement.
But now let us turn our attention to previewing this match and taking a look at how things could pan out for both sides.
This week has been an interesting one for Barcelona. There were some shocking rumors put to bed, such as Carles Puyol leaving the club (via Goal). But nonetheless, this week’s news has calmed things at the club.
Other than the not-so-surprising denial of the rumors from Carles Puyol, Javier Mascherano rejoined regular training after suffering a knee injury a month ago in Champions League play (via Goal).
However, it would be a stretch to assume that the Argentine will participate this weekend.
Victor Valdes is also likely to miss the match as he is still battling a foot injury that saw him miss last week’s match. Jose Pinto is likely to step in, but missing Valdes in a match like this could prove huge.
The club does have more good news entering the game as Pedro has recovered from his stomach bug and Sergio Busquets was given the green light. Both players will be available and should make the starting lineup.
For Atletico Madrid there is not so much going on besides the constant rumors of big clubs vying for Radamel Falcao.
This match will come at an interesting time for Ateltico though.
Diego Simeone's side beat Celta in midweek play to seal their place in next season’s Champions League. On top of that, the Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid is only a week away, meaning Los Rojiblancos could opt to rest a few players against Barcelona.
At this point in the season, the game against Barcelona is not a must win. But playing in front of thier own fans after a season like this, Atletico will want nothing more than to take down the mighty Barcelona.
With this being such an important match for Barcelona, expect Tito Vilanova to start the strongest squad he can. Atletico Madrid will also field a strong lineup, but some players will certainly be rested.
Here is a look at the projected lineup for both sides.
Atletico Madrid: Thibaut Courtois; Juanfran, Diego Godin, Joao Miranda, Filipe Luis; Mario Suarez, Koke, Oliver Torres, Tiago Mendes; Adrian Lopez, Radamel Falcao, Arda Turan
Barcelona: Jose Pinto; Dani Alves, Marc Bartra, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busuqets, Xavi, Andres Iniesta; Pedro, Lionel Messi, David Villa
Recent Form and Previous Meetings
Barcelona have won the two clubs' last five meetings with Atletico Madrid keeping their rivals from scoring more than one goal in every encounter. But with a weakened defense, that could change on Sunday.
In their last five matches across all competitions, Barcelona have only won twice. Dating back to the two defeats at the hands of Bayern Munich, this Barcelona side look a shell of what they once were.
But the Catalans do have the ability to turn things around and will certainly try to do that against this Atletico Madrid side.
For the visitors, form has been shaky as of late.
La Liga's third-placed side have only lost one of their last five matches, that loss being a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid. But despite the outcomes, Atletico has not looked their best recently.
Though this side was putting pressure on Real Madrid for the majority of the season, they have dropped down to third in the table with no hope of breaking back into the top two.
But a match against Barcelona is exactly what Atletico need to pick up steam entering the final weeks of the season. A victory would surely put energy back into the squad and give fans an exciting Copa del Rey final next week.
Normally, this would be the type of match that you would just think Barcelona would run away with. But because of their weakened defense and form they have showed lately, this won’t be an easy match.
Atletico Madrid will enter this match with something to prove.
It would be very surprising for the hosts to be kept scoreless at home against this Barcelona defense. So expect at least one goal for Atletico.
However, it is just this type of stage that we have seen Lionel Messi thrive for so long. I expect the Argentine to be the difference maker, scoring and assisting to lead Barcelona to a 3-1 victory and the La Liga title.
How do you see this match playing out? Will Barcelona officially wrap up La Liga? Leave your thoughts and comments below.
Tre’ Atkinson. Follow me on Twitter for more discussions on Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and La Liga.