Skip to content

Preview: Top of the table showdown in La Liga as Barcelona head to Atletico Madrid

Jan 10, 2014, 9:58 PM EDT

Messi AP

Barcelona got Lionel Messi back just in time.

The superstar returned from a long-term hamstring injury on Thursday, and it looked like he hadn’t missed a beat.

Thank goodness for Barcelona, because they’ll need the four-time Ballon d’Or winner come tomorrow, as they travel to the Vicente Calderon to face off against Atletico Madrid.

The pair are tied at the top of the La Liga on 49 points, with Barcelona only ahead on a 5-goal spread in differential.

The Catalan giants also get Neymar back from his gastroenteritis, having played 10 minutes in their last three matches.

These two squads faced off twice earlier in the year in the Supercopa, and while Barcelona won on away goals, Madrid did well to hold them to just one goal over the two matches.  They sat back to defend and hit Barca on the break.

source: AP

Diego Costa’s 19 goals have roared Atletico to the top of the La Liga table.

That will likely be their strategy this time around, and barring another duo sent off late (Arda Turan and Filipe were each sent off in the final 10 minutes of their 0-0 Supercopa draw), they could get more goals this time around.

Atletico manager Diego Simeone has experimented with a few different formations this season with smashing success.  The loss of Falcao to Monaco a  year ago has had a Ewing Theory affect on the squad, and Diego Costa has filled in with flying colors.

Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo get all the overseas headlines from La Liga, but it’s Costa’s 19 goals in 18 league matches that have Atletico planted in the top of the table.  Add another nine from David Villa plus the best defensive record in the league (11 goals conceded in 18  matches), shake it all up, and you have the recipe for a pretty tasty La Liga season.

However, a loss to Barcelona would put a serious, serious dent in the title hopes of the Madrid faithful. Barcelona hardly falter elsewhere in the league (they have just a single loss to their name thus far), and those three points dropped to their competition would likely spell doom.

The hosts will be boosted by the knowledge that right-back Juanfran will be eligible to play.  He was originally suspended due to yellow card accumulation, but a court of arbitration ruled that his fifth yellow was received due to acting by a Malaga player, and revoked the caution.

Latest Posts
  1. Premier League Download: Tale of the newly-promoted teams

    Sep 22, 2014, 3:56 PM EDT

    Leonardo Ulloa AP

    What are Leicester City, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers all about? Our analysts break it down.

  2. Premier League player of the week – Round 5

    Sep 22, 2014, 3:22 PM EDT

    Lampard AP

    Who was crowned the best player of the week in the PL?

  3. VIDEO: Watch the top five Premier League goals – Week 5

    Sep 22, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT

    ManchesterUnited AP

    Which five goals were the best? Pick your best from two chips, a scissor kick, a belter and a curler.

  4. League Cup preview: Five all-Premier League ties await in third round

    Sep 22, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Gunners and Saints clash, as the third round of the League Cup takes place this week.

  5. FIFA Executive: “The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will not happen”

    Sep 22, 2014, 1:38 PM EDT

    Theo Zwanziger AP

    Zwanziger: “Medics say they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions.”

  6. VIDEO: Men In Blazers analyze the many faces of Louis van Gaal

    Sep 22, 2014, 1:10 PM EDT

    Men In Blazers - Sept. 22

    Joining the NBC Sports crew from the crap part of SoHo, the MiB break down van Gaal’s topsy-turvy day.

  7. Criminal? FIFA’s report into alleged 2018, 2022 World Cup corruption not public

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Sepp Blatter AP

    A report documenting FIFA’s internal investigation into alleged World Cup bidding corruption will not be published.

  8. Arsenal defender Mathieu Debuchy out for three months

    Sep 22, 2014, 11:28 AM EDT

    Debuchy Getty Images

    Gunners defensive woes compounded as Debuchy will be out for over three months.

  9. Premier League Playback: Legendary Lampard strikes, United’s shambolic implosion

    Sep 22, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    Lampard Getty Images

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an in-depth look at the incredible storylines from the PL during Week 5.

  10. Men in Blazers podcast: A Night of 1,000 Stars

    Sep 22, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT

    IMG_9209_edit_facebook

    Rog and Davo welcomed guest after guest for a very special pod.

  11. Manuel Pellegrini accuses Chelsea of being a “small team”

    Sep 22, 2014, 9:05 AM EDT

    Manchester City v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    Pellegrini on City’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea: “I think we played 90 minutes against a small team trying to defend.”

  12. Report: Sami Khedira to seal $20 million Arsenal move in January

    Sep 22, 2014, 8:32 AM EDT

    sami_khedira Getty Images

    German midfielder would be exactly what Arsenal need. Will he arrive in January?

  13. Report: West Ham join QPR in chase for Toronto’s Jermaine Defoe

    Sep 22, 2014, 7:53 AM EDT

    jermain_defoe Getty Images

    Will Defoe be heading back to England at the end of the 2014 MLS season? Reports suggest its likely.

  14. MLS Sunday review: Toronto FC ease to victory against lowly Chivas USA

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:37 AM EDT

    toronto_fc AP

    Toronto FC vs. Chivas USA was the only MLS match to occur on Sunday.

  15. La Liga and Serie A roundup: Real Madrid smokes Deportivo, Juve downs Milan

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:10 AM EDT

    cristiano_ronaldo AP

    Roundup of Serie A and La Liga matches from the weekend.

  16. Manchester City’s Zabaleta believes Diego Costa luckily escaped red card

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:09 PM EDT

    manchester-city-pablo-zabaleta Getty Images

    Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta thinks the referee let Diego Costa off without a red card during their encounter that spurred a red card for the Argentine.

  17. Barcelona stays undefeated with 5-0 drubbing of Levante

    Sep 21, 2014, 9:07 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Barcelona beat Levante 5-0 on Sunday to continue their winning streak in all competitions.

  18. Joe Hart’s Manchester City future in limbo, Liverpool may target the goalkeeper

    Sep 21, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT

    Can England start to churn out talents such as Joe Hart from SGP on a regular basis? Getty Images

    Manchester City goalie Joe Hart confirmed that he hadn’t discussed a new contract with the club, and Liverpool is a prime candidate for his services, according to the Metro.

  19. Merseyside police to explore racist comments at Mario Balotelli

    Sep 21, 2014, 5:48 PM EDT

    hi-res-133f09d31924ea9d682e1f1a8a3ffef1_crop_north Getty Images

    More racism was thrown at Mario Balotelli, but this time, it appears law enforcement will get involved.

Featured video

Week 5: Top five Premier League goals