Jan 10, 2014, 9:58 PM EDT
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.
Jul 30, 2014, 9:11 AM EDT
United to splash the cash? Lukaku on his way out of Chelsea? All the latest gossip, right here.
Jul 30, 2014, 8:27 AM EDT
Toure: “My decision is that I will stay at Manchester City for as long as possible.”
Jul 30, 2014, 7:48 AM EDT
After losing the PL title late in the season, then England being knocked out of the World Cup, can Gerrard bounce back?
Jul 29, 2014, 11:20 PM EDT
“I can only say that I’m very happy at City and at the moment we are talking about a contract,” Dzeko said.
Jul 29, 2014, 10:36 PM EDT
The 3,600 meters of elevation will provide a stiff challenge, with many opposing clubs having fallen victim to the altitude.
Jul 29, 2014, 9:43 PM EDT
Manchester United continued their success in the US with a third consecutive victory.
Jul 29, 2014, 9:01 PM EDT
Sturridge and Ibe step to the mic and hold their own.
Jul 29, 2014, 8:24 PM EDT
In team news, van Gaal has decided to go with his fabled 3-5-2.
Jul 29, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT
In a startling revelation, AS has revealed that Radamel Falcao has begun following three Real Madrid players on Instagram.
Jul 29, 2014, 7:08 PM EDT
Big day for headlines coming out of Southampton but this one looks to be quite promising for Saints fans.
Jul 29, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
Twenty-seven years after his first stint with Gremio, Luis Felipe Scolari is returning to the Brazilian side as its new manager.
Jul 29, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
Krkic, who made the $6.7 million move from Barcelona last week, scored a cracker of a first goal for Stoke City.
Jul 29, 2014, 5:25 PM EDT
Tevez’s family was then phoned and told to deliver a ransom of $5,000 (40,000 pesos).
Jul 29, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT
“Every penny of that will be up for reinvestment as transfer fees and wages,” Krueger said.
Jul 29, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT
Where, exactly, Ronaldinho’s future ends up is anyone’s guess.
Jul 29, 2014, 3:22 PM EDT
ICC and MLS action is in full swing in the USA this week. Watch it all online, here.
Jul 29, 2014, 2:57 PM EDT
Jacobson arrives in the Big Apple from Dallas. Will Aquilani join him?
Jul 29, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT
Now Schneiderlin wants out as Saints’ incredible exodus continues to take a turn for the worst.
Jul 29, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT
Despite not winning any silverware last season, Barcelona were big winners off the pitch.
Jul 29, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT
Tevez’s father, Juan Carlos Cabral, is said to have been kidnapped in Buenos Aires and held for ransom.
- Transfer Rumor Roundup: Cuadrado to Manchester United, Lukaku to Everton 0
- Steven Gerrard endured “worst three months” of his life after Liverpool, England heartbreak 1
- Premier League on tour, Tuesday roundup: United beat Inter in penalties 1
- Liverpool complete $17 million signing of Belgian striker Divock Origi 1
- Tim Howard joins NBC Sports’ Premier League broadcast team on multi-year deal 11
- VIDEO: US stars fight – Omar Gonzalez vs. Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin 6