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.
Mar 7, 2014, 9:44 PM EST
In a sports world full of “business decisions” Bolton has clung to the human component of Stuart Holden, remaining strongly supportive of their player despite the sad fact he could be facing his fourth torn ACL.
Mar 7, 2014, 9:16 PM EST
Following the USMNT loss to Ukraine, club action continues in Europe.
Mar 7, 2014, 8:08 PM EST
Away goals now rule playoff matchups, and tiebreaker rules for playoff spots have changed priorities.
Mar 7, 2014, 7:28 PM EST
Looking for yet another reset button, Clint Dempsey will indeed begin the 2014 MLS season with Seattle’s matchday squad.
Mar 7, 2014, 6:34 PM EST
After incidents last weekend, Brek Shea and his teammate have both apologized to fans after lashing out at abusive supporters.
Mar 7, 2014, 5:57 PM EST
PST’s experts weigh in and predict the MLS Cup champs and the final standings:
Mar 7, 2014, 5:44 PM EST
For a year and a half the Ligue 1 side won’t be able to acquire any players.
Mar 7, 2014, 5:13 PM EST
Will the Sounders finally win an MLS Cup in 2014? What will happen to Sigi Schmid if it doesn’t happen?
Mar 7, 2014, 4:00 PM EST
Major League Soccer starts it’s big leap next season. In 2014, the league will enjoy the end of an era.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:40 PM EST
Where and how to watch every PL game live during Week 29:
Mar 7, 2014, 3:08 PM EST
With both newcomers and familiar faces, the 2014 MLS season features a jumble of quality at the front of attacks across the league.
Mar 7, 2014, 2:45 PM EST
Former coach Pia Sundhage, in charge of the USWNT when their streak began, guided Sweden to a 1-0 victory in the Algarve Cup – the USMNT’s first defeat in two years.
Mar 7, 2014, 2:03 PM EST
It once seemed incomprehensible that Leo Messi could leave Barcelona. But is it a possibility?
Mar 7, 2014, 1:15 PM EST
Can Kansas City start their defense of the MLS Cup off on the right foot, grabbing a win at Seattle?
Mar 7, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
When Jonathan Walters converted his match-winner, there was only one song on the Stoke supporters minds: Delilah.
Mar 7, 2014, 11:43 AM EST
The regular MLS referees will be locked out of the weekend’s opening games, meaning the league will turn to qualified replacement officials.
Mar 7, 2014, 11:14 AM EST
The Manchester United manager penned a letter to season ticket holders praising their loyalty and promising the club will be great once more.
Mar 7, 2014, 10:25 AM EST
Juventus insist the midfielder isn’t for sale, but with at least three big names sniffing around, will the Italian giants be tempted?
Mar 7, 2014, 9:40 AM EST
Will either Cardiff or Fulham get the three points they so desperately need?
Mar 7, 2014, 8:43 AM EST
Don’t worry, Leo fans: Messi’s reaction during Argentina’s match against Romania was perfectly normal.
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