Atletico Madrid vs. Barcelona: Prediction, Live Stream Info and Key Battles

Matt CheethamCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2014

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 28:  Lionel Messi (L) of FC Barcelona is challenged by Mario Suarez of Atletico de Madrid during the Spanish Super Cup second leg match between FC Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid at Nou Camp on August 28, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

One domestic match stands out above all others this weekend, as Atletico Madrid and Barcelona clash at Estadio Vicente Calderon.

La Liga's top two go head-to-head, with both sides winning 16 of 18 games thus far, dropping just five points all season; something has to give.

Here's a look ahead to Saturday's crunch clash, with key areas of the contest assessed.

 

Where: Estadio Vicente Calderon

When: Saturday Jan. 11, 7 p.m. GMT

Stream Info: Sky Sports 4, from 6:55 p.m GMT, available via the Sky Go app

 

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 28:  Head coach Diego Pablo Simeone of Atletico de Madrid reacts during the Spanish Super Cup second leg match between FC Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid at Nou Camp on August 28, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos
David Ramos/Getty Images

Key Battles

While this game will be hugely tactical, clearly several key battles centre around how the leading players are contained.

First and foremost, Barcelona have the luxury of being able to call upon Lionel Messi. As this tweet indicates, the four-time World Player of the Year thrives on Atletico's turf:

He scored twice on his return against Getafe and seems poised to start this crucial game against La Liga's most miserly defence.

Diego Simeone's side have conceded just 11 times this season and will rely on Miranda and Diego Godin to track Messi's movement and restrict his spaceobviously a pivotal task.

Atletico pose a major threat themselves in the form of a two-pronged attack of David Villa and Diego Costa.

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 27: David Villa (R) of Atletico de Madrid celebrates with team-mate Diego Costa after scoring their team's third goal during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Real Betis Balompieat at Vicente Calderon Stadium on
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The pair have scored 27 goals this season, 57 percent of Atletico's La Liga total of 47. As with their opposing centre-backs, Gerard Pique and Marc Bartra, if selected, must combat this dual threat.

Stylistically, this match sees a clash of passing vs. pressing, similar to the way Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund lock horns.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 28:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona duels for the ball among Atletico de Madrid players during the Spanish Super Cup second leg match between FC Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid at Nou Camp on August 28, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.
David Ramos/Getty Images

The Catalans will look to control the game, gently occupying possession before bursting into life with several slick exchanges.

In contrast, Atletico will be endlessly sprinting to close down their opponents in a high-octane performance. They don't target possession and have won several matches this season with less of the ball than their opponents, per WhoScored.com.

Don't be surprised to see the odd long ball introduced as the away side attempt to bypass the pressing.

 

Prediction: Atletico Madrid 1-2 Barcelona

This will be a tight contest. Both sides have leading attackers who will be challenged by two defensively resilient units.

However, as the game progresses, it's hard to imagine both attacks being kept out for the full duration.

While the recent Super Cup ties were drawn, this will be where the away side's experience shines throughpotentially in the form of a crucial late winner.