5 Things Barcelona Must Do to Beat Atletico Madrid in La Liga Title Decider
When the fixtures were announced at the start of the season, few would have thought that Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid on the final day would decide the destination of the title.
But that's what we've got: a mouthwatering showpiece finale.
Two teams with polar opposite football philosophies and huge disparities in finances and support.
One team accustomed to success and the other used to failure.
But this season, it is Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid who have caught the eye rather than Barcelona.
So here are five things that Tata Martino needs his men to do if they are to retain La Liga.
Shut Down Diego Costa
Diego Costa has been one of the most dangerous players in the world this season.
Not just for his goals, of which he has 27 in La Liga—trailing only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
No, he's also dangerous because he is excellent at running at defenders and creating space for the players in support of him.
Costa can also infuriate the opposition and cause them to lose their calm.
Barcelona need to be prepared for the striker to use every trick in the book to get his team the result they need.
Play Messi in the Right Place
Last time Barcelona and Atletico Madrid met, Tata Martino did something strange.
He left Messi out on the right flank and played Cesc Fabregas as a false nine. It did not work and the Catalans were knocked out of the Champions League.
This time, Messi needs to be played in his usual free role.
He also needs to be encouraged before the game to give more than he has done this season.
Perhaps he has one eye on the World Cup, perhaps the injury he suffered earlier this year is still affecting him.
Either way, no matter what his previous accomplishments, he needs to play like victory would bring him his first ever trophy, not just another pot for the cabinet.
Rediscover Their Passion for Winning
At times this season Barcelona have been far too sloppy.
A team determined to win trophies doesn't make the same amount of mistakes as Tata Martino's side.
Most of the squad have won it all already and an apathetic attitude has come across in recent games, such as Elche at the weekend.
Retaining La Liga would be welcome, obviously, but across their careers would only be one more notch.
Too many poor results against lowly opponents have cost them, among the most embarrassing was a 1-0 defeat to Granada.
Stop Crossing the Ball so Much
Dani Alves and Adriano like to get down the flanks and fire the ball in, which is all very well and sometimes works.
But in goal for Atletico Madrid is Thibaut Courtois, who is tall, confident and excellent in the air.
The Belgian stopper has no trouble in commanding the penalty area and will find an aerial assault easy pickings.
Also, no Barcelona forward is particularly strong when it comes to heading the ball.
Win the Midfield Battle, Win the Game
Diego Simeone's troops are well drilled.
The likes of Koke, Tiago and Gabi are all efficient, tidy players. Others, like Arda Turan, often curb their attacking instincts to put in hard work for the team.
Barcelona can't be overpowered in midfield and need Xavi to roll back the years.
Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta need to support the Barcelona legend and make sure he doesn't get drowned out by the toiling Atletico midfield engine.
A draw is not enough for Barcelona, they need to win, so must create as many chances as they can.