What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid
When: Saturday 24th September, 2011, at 21:00 UK time
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain

“Hay Liga”

It seemed that with their recent demolition of Osasuna last weekend, Barcelona would be back to winning ways after their draws with Real Sociedad and AC Milan. The Catalans however failed to come up with the goods against Valencia at the Mestalla in midweek, missing out on the chance to widen the gap with perennial foes Real Madrid, who were unable to take three points from Racing Santander.

The 2-2 draw versus Valencia was the perfect answer to what a large chunk of people believe to be a replication of the Scottish Premier League; a perfect image of a reigning duopoly. On the night, Barcelona and Real Madrid failed to get past their opponents, each team having their own reasons, but the outcome remains the same: What seemed to be a brilliant start to the league season by each club is slowly fading with each passing match. “Hay Liga” – Spanish for “There is a league” – is the term being used lately whenever one of the two stutters, giving that fresh burst of oxygen to a competition that was considered to be a forgone conclusion.

But Real Madrid’s recent misfortunes cannot go undetected by Guardiola’s team once more. His side cannot falter should Los Merengues also fail to win their next match, even against a team in fine form such as Atletico Madrid.

Four-Star Display

Perhaps it is never a good time to face the world’s best and strongest side, but having enjoyed excellent times lately, Atletico Madrid will surely fancy their chances of coming up with a decent result when they visit reigning Spanish and European champions Barcelona at the daunting Camp Nou.

Atletico Madrid arrive in fine shape, with key summer signings Diego and Radamel Falcao proving to be success stories for the Mattress Makers. The Colombian striker especially has been in red-hot form for his new side, and it showed against Sporting Gijon as he scored two of his side’s four goals, punishing the Rojiblancos. Speaking after the match, coach Gregorio Manzano highlighted the effect that the former FC Porto man has on his side: “It is clear that we have signed a big scorer [Falcao], who enjoys Spanish football. It took a lot of work to bring him and he has been a great success. It is surprising that he has adapted so quickly to the team and has started to score goals in this way.”

A tussle with champions Barcelona will be Atletico’s toughest test of the season so far. But with Josep Guardiola’s side recording their third draw in the last four matches, the Blaugrana are not in the best shape possible.

Recent form

Barcelona 2-2 AC Milan (13/09; Champions League)
Barcelona 8-0 Osasuna (17/09; La Liga)
Valencia 2-2 Barcelona (21/09; La Liga)

Atletico Madrid:
Atletico Madrid 2-0 Celtic (15/09; Europa League)
Atletico Madrid 4-0 Racing Santander (18/09; La Liga)
Atletico Madrid 4-0 Sporting Gijon (21/09; La Liga)

Key absences

Gerard Pique (doubt); Alexis Sanchez; Andres Iniesta

Atletico Madrid: Diego (doubt)

Players to watch

Barcelona – Cesc Fabregas: What more can be said of this new Barcelona player? Fabregas is enjoying a dream comeback to where his career began, linking up admirably with the likes of Xavi and Lionel Messi. With four league goals in four league games, not many new La Liga players are in better form.

Atletico Madrid – Radamel Falcao: Falcao has done a terrific job in ensuring that Atletico Madrid fans are quickly forgetting all about Sergio Aguero, who swapped the capital outfit for Manchester City earlier in the summer. A goal or two against the Blaugrana would surely elevate his stock even higher.

Match Prediction

Back at the Camp Nou after a tough match against Valencia, Josep Guardiola’s men start the game as favourites. Atletico Madrid are in great form, but to ask the capital club to overcome Barcelona away from home would be too much. Expect Barcelona to come out on top comfortably. 3-1 at the final whistle.

This La Liga game between Barcelona v Atletico Madrid looks packed full of action and potentially goals. Want to find the best bets to enjoy it even more? Visit OLBG.com where you can put your knowledge to use, find a range of tips and see the latest betting odds.