The 2013-14 campaign will probably go down as one of the greatest seasons in Atletico’s history.
No penalty was called, but there was still time left for Messi to work his magic.
Sure, he was only on the pitch for around 30 minutes – but Messi decided this game for Barcelona, and it could prove to be a pivotal result in the race for this season’s Liga title.
The game kicks off at 7.30pm Nigerian time. In a league where Eden Hazard was out on his own as the player of the year and Diego Costa nearly hung on as top scorer despite producing a symphony of twanging banjo hamstrings every time he tried to run after Christmas, just imagine what Neymar could get up to.
The title race for the 2013/14 season was even closer as it was decided on the final day of the season in Atletico Madrid’s favour after they drew against the Blaugrana at the Camp Nou. In two games apiece neither side have won a game yet this season, with La Real yet to score a goal.
And now, the jilted left-back has said that Jose Mourinho’s unwillingness to give him more regular first team football was the key factor that made him decide to look for an exit from the club this summer. There was an issue if this team was exhausted, and it doesn’t help this squad because Lionel Messi, Neymar and Javier Mascherano played friendlies in the United States this week. Gerard Pique will still has two matches to serve his suspension after abusing the referee in their Spanish Super Cup tie with Athletic Bilbao, while Dani Alves will miss this clash as he recuperates from a groin strain suffered two weeks back.
Luis Enrique’s men started the game strongly testing the resolute Atletico backline early on by moving the ball about quickly and in the process creating chances for the likes of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Ivan Rakitic.
Prediction: DrawBarcelona have beaten Atletico in the last four meetings.
Enrique defended the “rivalry” between Barcelona and Real Madrid, although he criticised the whistling his player has received while on worldwide duty with La Roja.
Elsewhere, Valencia and Sevilla are targeting their first wins of the league season ahead of their return to the Champions League in midweek.