What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona
When: Saturday 11th January, 2014, at 19:00 UK Time
Where: Vicente Calderon, Madrid, Spain

Another Jinx

Having managed to put Real Madrid to the sword twice in 2013, breaking in the process a very old jinx, Atletico Madrid will feel ready to compete with Barcelona as they welcome the league champions to the Vicente Calderon. With both teams level on 49 points at the top of the league, Diego Simeone’s side will be fighting for exclusive leadership of the table. Knowing that they hold an impeccable 100% record at home this term, now is the perfect time for Los Rojiblancos to claim a victory over Los Cules, after failing to win any of the past six meetings that pitted the two together.

The Blaugrana are in good spirits, especially with Lionel Messi’s successful return from injury in the team’s last match against Getafe, and Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa has unsurprisingly declared that his team will find a tough foe in Barcelona, while confirming that they have the tools to stop the Argentine wizard.

“It’s going to be a difficult game against opponents who have some of the world’s best players. But we are at home and we can make life difficult for them. Messi is Messi. We all missed him while he was out. It’ll be nice to have him up against us. He’ll be up for it after being out for so long. But we will be making it difficult for him; we have players at the back who are capable of stopping him”, said Costa.

Another Side

While it is true that Barcelona have been free-scoring with Lionel Messi on the sidelines, the undeniable truth is that the forward’s return brings a completely different dimension to the team’s style of play. His second-half cameo against Getafe in the Copa del Rey a few days ago was a reminder of his sheer brilliance, and Gerardo Martino will be lucky to have him back as his team now enter crucial months.

The Blaugrana face stern opposition in Atletico Madrid after 18 league fixtures, with both sides having the same number of points. Having admitted that the meeting between the two will not be decisive, Xavi still believes that the victors at the Vicente Calderon will have an advantage going on forward. 

“Saturday's game is vital. It's not definitive but it would give an advantage in the league table. We are in great shape. They play at home and are very compact defensively. It will be a tough game. We'll try to win the game and see a Barca continue as well as in the beginning of 2014”, commented the midfield kingpin.

The Catalans go into this game having won 21 of their last 23 league games, and are undefeated against Atletico Madrid in their last eight games in all competitions. 
 

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Atletico Madrid:
Atletico Madrid 3-2 Levante (21/12; La Liga)
Malaga 0-1 Atletico Madrid (04/01; La Liga)
Valencia 1-1 Atletico Madrid (07/01; Copa del Rey)

Barcelona:
Getafe 2-5 Barcelona (22/12; La Liga)
Barcelona 4-0 Elche (05/01; La Liga)
Barcelona 4-0 Getafe (08/01; Copa del Rey)

Key absences

Atletico Madrid: Mario Suarez

Barcelona: Dani Alves; Jonathan dos Santos
 

Players to watch

Atletico Madrid – Diego Costa: The pioneer of the post-Radamel Falcao era has been Diego Costa, who has 19 league goals to his name. Should he be able to score one or two against Barcelona, his team will more likely than not emerge as winners.

Barcelona – Lionel Messi: The world’s best player picked up right where he left with two vintage goals against Getafe. Against Atletico Madrid, he will be facing more difficult opposition, who will be eager to exploit his lack of match fitness.

Match Prediction

The fact that both sides are level on points sums up their state, as no team appear to be able to throw off the other. Atletico Madrid have home advantage, but Messi’s return means that Barcelona have been injected with a dose of confidence. Expect both sides to cancel each other out with a well-fought draw. 

Fancy a bet on Atletico Madrid v Barcelona? Head over to Inside Bet's betting preview!
 

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