Saturdays match will be the third time in La Liga history that two teams vowing for the title meet on the last day.
Atletico have put on a magnificent campaign behind Simeone’s tactical mind. Simeone, considered by many to be the coach of the year, has had his team only concede two goals in the teams last five meetings in all competitions. Boasting the best defense in Europe will help with that of course, but many also question Tata Martino’s formations.
Tata has employed a 4 man midfield and 2 forward line up each time they have met. His mindset behind this seems to be more of caution to hold possession and limit the number of counter attacks that Atletico could start. While understandable, many barca fans have been frustrated at not seeing a mix up in the first 11 and seeing a 3 forward attacking front that although would be more vulnerable, would allow for more finishers and penetration into the backline of the colchoneros.
According to the Catalan press, Tata has stated that he will start Cesc, Iniesta, Xavi and Busquets so I expect Alexis and Messi up front, Alves, Bartra, Mascherano and Alba in the back. Pique, who has resumed training this week, told reporters that they feel very fortunate to even be in this position and is sure the team will give it their all.
Neymar is the only forward in doubt to play. His fitness is not clear but one thing is for sure, although Luis Felipe Scolari has denied any rumours of him urging Barcelona to not let Neymar play, their is a lot of pressure on him being fit for the World Cup. I suspect he will not be used unless it is absolutely necessary.
From the other camp, Joao Miranda said “Barcelona is an enormously great team and we’ll try to win knowing that a draw is enough. It’s a difficult team because they play football very well. To beat them we need intensity and to be physically well. We are preparing this week and we’ll get there in top shape“.
The big question for Atletico remains if their goal scoring Machine Diego Costa will beat the race to be match fit in time to play Saturday. If not we’ll prob see Adrian who has been in great form all season as a lone striker perhaps.
Key Player: Miranda
Miranda has done a phenomenal job all year of man marking or making the opposing teams star player his main priority. Look for him to constantly rush and fluster Lionel Messi to prevent him from developing any rhythm.
Prediction: FC Barcelona 1-Atletico Madrid 0.
If theirs anything i’ve learned of watching the beautiful game all these years is that you can’t expect to win a title and squander so many opportunities. Their was a reason last weeks draw at home against Malaga felt like a final. Atletico should have been celebrating their first title in over 18 years right now and getting ready for the Champions League final. Instead they are facing injury problems and have to go on the road to one of the fiercest stadiums in the planet. If you don’t kill off a wounded opponent, they will be back. For the sake of Atletico, I hope I am wrong.
-Disgruntled Sports Fan