Preview: Barcelona v Atletico Madrid

La Liga leaders Barcelona face high-flying Atletico Madrid in a top-of-the-table clash which could have major implications for the title race.

La Liga
Date: 4 March 2018
Match Day 27
Kick-off: 23H15 HKT
Venue: Camp Nou

Referee: Jesús Gil
Assistants: Ángel Nevado, Javier Martínez
Fourth official: Iosu Galech

Head-to-head summary

Barcelona 57 28 14 15
Atletico Madrid 57 15 14 28

Previous encounter

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Barcelona 14/10/17 (La Liga)

Atletico scorer: Saúl (21′)
Barca scorer: L. Suárez (82′)

Players to watch

With so much at stake in this encounter, the man to rise to the occasion as he has done so many times before on the big stage could be Lionel Messi. The mesmeric Argentina star will no doubt want to produce his best form as he looks to extend his advantage in the race for the Pichichi Trophy, while also cementing Barca’s lead at the top.

Antoine Griezmann had a slow start to the season by his own high standards but has now exploded into life for Atletico. The France forward has 15 league goals to his name in 2017/18 and seven of those came in his last two games against Sevilla and Leganes. His partnership with Diego Costa in attack is starting to blossom, and the pair could be dangerous at the Camp Nou.

Team form and manager quotes

Blaugrana’s form has waned over the last five matches as the leaders have drawn three and won two of their last five Primera Division matches.

Dropped points at the hands of the lowly Las Palmas was a result few expected in previous match.

As such, boss Ernesto Valverde expects a tough contest, saying: “We both have such a strong style, that we will focus on that. Atletico always tries to surprise with a high pressure, trying to make the mark from the beginning, we’ll see how it goes, but it’s an attractive match in which the three points are worth a lot.”

Meanwhile, Rojiblancos are in imperious form having won their last six league matches while scoring 16 goals in the process. The run has seen them close ground on Barca in second position.

Nonetheless, manager Diego Simeone understands the threat of the hosts especially Lionel Messi. He said: “Facing a player like Lionel, there are no strategies, you can’t control him because he’s naturally gifted. The game leads to different situations. I’ve always said in a game anything can happen and we have to move him where we want him.”

Team news

Nelson Semedo is out for up to five weeks with a hamstring strain while Sergi Samper is a long term casualty. Jordi Alba returns from suspension and Gerard Pique, rested against Las Palmas, is set to start alongside Samuel Umtiti in central defence.

For the away outfit, Yannick Carrasco and Nico Gaitan both moved to China recently while goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya joined Real Sociedad this week. Lucas Hernandez and Stefan Savic are both doubtful for the clash as well.