Jan 10, 2014, 9:58 PM EST
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.
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.
Dec 18, 2014, 11:50 PM EST
Luke Shaw is ready to make his return after nearly a month out of action.
Dec 18, 2014, 10:21 PM EST
Mix Diskerud is on the move, and he may be headed south of the border.
Dec 18, 2014, 9:14 PM EST
Chicharito isn’t getting games for Real Madrid, but his agent insists he won’t end his loan deal early.
Dec 18, 2014, 7:46 PM EST
It may be 14 years after the fact, but Paul Scholes is owning up to his fault in one of the greatest goals of all-time.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:20 PM EST
Inspired by Monday’s loss, the USWNT were out for vengeance — and goals — against Argentina.
Dec 18, 2014, 4:36 PM EST
Find out who went where in Stage 2 of the MLS Re-Entry Draft on Thursday.
Dec 18, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
As we head into the busy festive season, here’s how the rankings of power look before Week 17.
Dec 18, 2014, 2:46 PM EST
Winger set to return to full training, may return to action this Sunday at Anfield.
Dec 18, 2014, 2:11 PM EST
Germany end 2014 on top, as the USMNT sit steady inside the top 30.
Dec 18, 2014, 1:26 PM EST
Balotelli will now miss Liverpool’s match against Arsenal this weekend.
Dec 18, 2014, 12:45 PM EST
Rogers worries about anti-gay laws in Russia, Qatar during World Cup tournaments.
Dec 18, 2014, 11:46 AM EST
Scunthorpe win 14-13 on penalty kicks… really?
Dec 18, 2014, 11:10 AM EST
Klinsmann’s son make six saves, but gets second-yellow as youth side beat Germany.
Dec 18, 2014, 10:17 AM EST
USMNT attacker heading back to MLS.
Dec 18, 2014, 8:50 AM EST
Vegas, baby! New soccer stadium gets seal of approval from city council… all they need now is an MLS expansion franchise.
Dec 18, 2014, 8:19 AM EST
Reus has been speeding around in his Aston Martin without a license. Gets biggest motoring fine in German history.
Dec 18, 2014, 7:54 AM EST
Dig into all the latest gossip, right here.
Dec 17, 2014, 11:13 PM EST
Could Cole be returning to the Premier League?
Dec 17, 2014, 10:35 PM EST
Bad jokes make Christmas.
Dec 17, 2014, 10:10 PM EST
- Paul Scholes: Thierry Henry’s legendary goal vs. Man United was my fault 2
- Premier League Power Rankings: Arsenal, Everton rising, Saints falling 2
- Robbie Rogers: FIFA “insane” to host World Cups in Russia, Qatar 6
- Stoke City confirm Brek Shea is finalizing move to Orlando City 1
- Soccer stadium approved in Las Vegas, as MLS expansion talk heats up in Sin City 3
- Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus fined $665,000 for driving without a license 1