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.
Apr 20, 2014, 4:57 AM EDT
Liverpool can go five clear before David Moyes makes his return to Goodison Park.
Apr 20, 2014, 3:53 AM EDT
Dallas stayed at the top of the Western Conference, while Seattle improved to 3-0-1 on the road.
Apr 20, 2014, 2:39 AM EDT
Seattle’s high-priced strike tandem produced another late winner, giving the Sounders their fourth win of the season.
Apr 20, 2014, 1:51 AM EDT
Two huge saves in the final minutes from Nick Rimando keep RSL unbeaten.
Apr 20, 2014, 1:05 AM EDT
Goal difference has the defending champions on top of the Eastern Conference.
Apr 20, 2014, 12:35 AM EDT
Two more goals off set pieces gave FC Dallas its fifth win of the season.
Apr 19, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT
Juan Guzman gave Giancarlo Gonzalez a pass. Columbus came back to claim a draw.
Apr 19, 2014, 10:11 PM EDT
Two separate leads were pulled back as the Whitecaps fought back at BC Place.
Apr 19, 2014, 9:24 PM EDT
NBC’s team on the scene reacts to the day’s big result:
Apr 19, 2014, 8:49 PM EDT
San Jose remains without a win beside playing the second place Rapids to a standstill.
Apr 19, 2014, 7:43 PM EDT
Look back at a Saturday that helped bring clarity to the Premier League’s title race.
Apr 19, 2014, 7:07 PM EDT
Two weeks ago, it was Mike Magee. On Saturday, it was Juan Luis Anagonó who couldn’t covert late from the spot.
Apr 19, 2014, 6:29 PM EDT
Will Bruin and Andrew Wenger came close, but neither were able to keep his team from playing out a scoreless draw.
Apr 19, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
A host of teams are battling it out to determine who will fill Germany’s European spots. Meanwhile, the rush to avoid the drop continues.
Apr 19, 2014, 3:38 PM EDT
Chicago goes for its first win while New England looks to make it two-in-a-row, and it all starts at 4:00 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports Live Extra:
Apr 19, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT
All the recaps, analysis and video highlights from a sensational Saturday:
Apr 19, 2014, 2:56 PM EDT
Watch Chelsea’s manager implode in the post-match TV interview, as his unbeaten streak comes to an end:
Apr 19, 2014, 2:52 PM EDT
Lazio, Torino and Parma all dropped points, opening a path for AC Milan to push into Italy’s final Europa League spot.
Apr 19, 2014, 2:32 PM EDT
Chelsea lose at home in PL under Mourinho for first time in 77 matches, as Sunderland shock Blues:
Apr 19, 2014, 1:26 PM EDT
Blues and Black Cats locked at 1-1 after nervy first half, watch live online right here:
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