Barcelona welcome Atlético de Madrid to the Camp Nou on Saturday evening in a match that will have major consequences in the 2018/19 title race.
Atletico need a win to peg back league leaders Barcelona, who’ll be able to land a killer blow to their rivals with a win.
Whatever happens we’re in for a thriller but with these two sides so evenly matched… which players could tip the balance?
Diego Godín (Atletico de Madrid)
The Uruguayan centre-back has fond memories of the Camp Nou. It was he who scored the headed equaliser in the 1-1 draw in 2014 that clinched the title for Los Colchoneros. After a goalless 2017/18, Godín has rediscovered his scoring touch this campaign and will be a threat from set pieces, while he’ll also be very involved in defence as he commands Atlético’s dominant back line.
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
There’s no way that Messi could be left off a list like this. With 28 goals against Atlético Madrid in 37 appearances, no other player in history has scored so many goals against the side from the Spanish capital. The Argentine has been in sensational form in LaLiga Santander this season, averaging over a goal a game with 31 from 27 appearances.
Álvaro Morata (Atletico de Madrid)
Since making a January loan move from Chelsea to Atlético, Morata has regularly found the back of the net and, alongside Antoine Griezmann, will be Atleti’s major threat in attack. With four goals and an assist from just seven LaLiga Santander appearances, the striker has hit the ground running upon his return to Spain and will be looking for what would be his second career goal against Barcelona. Atleti need to score and he’ll be crucial on Saturday night.
Jan Oblak (Atletico de Madrid)
While Marc-André ter Stegen could also prove to be decisive in this fixture, special attention should be paid to Atleti shot-stopper Jan Oblak, the current leader in the race to win the Zamora Trophy, the award given out at the end of each season to the goalkeeper with the best goals conceded record – a prize the Slovenian has won in each of the past three seasons. Amazingly, he’s never kept a clean sheet against Barcelona in LaLiga Santander in eight attempts but both he and Atleti be hoping it’s ninth time lucky. If Atleti are to take anything from this game, they’ll need their keeper in top form.
Sergio Busquets (FC Barcelona)
This game could be won and lost in midfield and Atleti will be hoping that their young midfield gem Rodrigo Hernández, dubbed “the new Busquets”, can keep hold of possession in the middle. He’ll be going up against the real Busquets, however, a master of controlling the pace, space and rhythm of the midfield. The Spain international is so important in matches like this, especially those in which Barça need to control the middle of the park.