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.
Oct 22, 2014, 11:04 PM EDT
How did the Galatasaray supporters pull off this Tifo before Wednesday’s match against Borussia Dortmund? How?!?
Oct 22, 2014, 10:10 PM EDT
The pair of Premier League clubs remaining in the competition face quite different tests on Thursday.
Oct 22, 2014, 9:25 PM EDT
Perhaps it isn’t the sexiest year for rookies in Major League Soccer, but there’s a quartet of names set to stick around for a while.
Oct 22, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
“I had hope, it maybe didn’t look like it, but it happened,” Wenger said.
Oct 22, 2014, 7:23 PM EDT
“So overall, it’s a squad with a lot of experience playing at the highest level, and this will be another great benchmark for us,” Klinsmann said.
Oct 22, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
Of course many are claiming this “is the beginning of end” for Balotelli on Merseyside. That seems a bit much.
Oct 22, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT
Here’s the bar, Week 33 of Major League Soccer: Please feel free to raise it.
Oct 22, 2014, 4:47 PM EDT
We are at the halfway point in Groups A-D, and some English clubs are concerned about their fortunes to be sure.
Oct 22, 2014, 4:41 PM EDT
It was a night to forget for the home side, as Real ruled at Anfield. Here’s what we learned.
Oct 22, 2014, 4:36 PM EDT
The 21-year-old Honduran international did what a dangerous Alexis Sanchez couldn’t, but Arsenal was rescued late.
Oct 22, 2014, 4:34 PM EDT
Ronaldo, Benzema and co. put on a clinic at Anfield, as Liverpool are taught a lesson.
Oct 22, 2014, 2:54 PM EDT
The CAF claimed Platini said something he didn’t, and it hurt his feelings.
Oct 22, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT
Here’s what it’s like at Anfield, as Liverpool host Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League.
Oct 22, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT
With yesterday’s goal frenzy, will today give us the same excitement?
Oct 22, 2014, 1:34 PM EDT
This is the second time Robinho is under investigation for such an alleged incident.
Oct 22, 2014, 12:17 PM EDT
NYCFC’s first Designated Player will be returning to the United States to fulfill commercial and marketing obligations, and it’s unclear whether he will make his way back to Australia to finish out his loan.
Oct 22, 2014, 11:36 AM EDT
Now that he’s back from a hernia problem, the American told Stoke’s YouTube channel that he is no longer a right-back and the club is aware of where he wants to play.
Oct 22, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT
Rog and Davo gain whiplash from QPR-Liverpool, and the Jurgen Klinsmann-Don Garber saga.
Oct 22, 2014, 10:28 AM EDT
After 10 years with the club, Gourlay has stepped down.
Oct 22, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT
The MLS side was eliminated from group stage play on an away goals tiebreaker as Honduran side Olimpia goes through.
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