It has been a long time since the Spanish Championship has not been contested by teams other than Barcelona and Real Madrid. Obviously, Atletico was the team that brought its head to the surface, but not enough. Well, this year we have a fierce title dispute between no fewer than six teams, all of which having relatively equal chances.
In the leading squad, we find Barcelona, Sevilla and Atletico. There are two big surprises, Alaves and Espanyol, and then the giants Real Madrid. What happened?
First of all, Barcelona and Real have started the championship in pretty “slow motion”. At Real, the problem is simple: Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence is clearly making an impact on the game. Then, Zidane’s departure and the replacement with Lopetegui did nothing but deepened the crisis.
Barcelona did not go so bad, but they were hampered by small teams. Losing with Leganes away and Betis at home shows a slight slump in Valverde’s team usual form. All these results interfered with others, very good: 5-1 with Real Madrid and 4-2 with Sevilla, both wins on home turf.
In this context, the teams from the second area have taken courage and so we have two more real title contenders: Sevilla and Atletico Madrid. Thus, Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona becomes, from a derby, a really important match for the championship.
Atletico is starting this match with the second chance. Of 14 matches played in recent years, Atletico has managed to beat Barcelona once in the Champions League. The rest of the statistics are just draws or victories for Barca. Another important point is that the scores were always tight, the difference being maximum of two goals in the event of a victory.
Valverde has no big squad problems: Rakitic is suspended for a red card and Coutinho, although injured, has a good chance of returning to the field. On the other side, Diego Simenone has a decimated, medical-ridden squad: Godin, Gimenez, Hernandez, Lemar, Savic and Koke are in doubt.
Atletico Madrid (probable lineup): Oblak – Arias, Godin (?), Montero, Luis – Correa, Thomas, Rodri, Niguez – Costa, Griezmann.
Barcelona (probable lineup): Ter Stegen – Roberto, Piquet, Lenglet, Alba – Coutinho (?), Busquets, Artur – Messi, Suarez, Malcom.