Barça vs. Atlético: Will La Pulga Bite El Tigre?

 

It’s here: the second tough match in a row. Following last week’s Betis game in which Messi broke another record and Barça hung on to win against an impressive 2nd half Béticos performance, this could potentially be the biggest and most exciting encounter of the season’s first half.

After Atlético’s dismal performance against Real Madrid in El Derbi, coach Simeone was miffed.  He remonstrated with his players for their poor showing.

“Simeone told us that we have a debt to pay for the game we played in the Bernabéu (against Madrid),” said Atlético midfielder and captain Gabi Fernández. “We didn’t play the game we needed to against Madrid. We hope we can do so this time at Barcelona.”

 

Recent Games Between Barcelona and Atlético
Since the 1993/94 season, the teams have faced each other 36 times. All have been La Liga competition games. Barça’s record against Los Colchoneros stands at:
W:17 L:13 D:6. Holy moley.

Atléti’s last win at Camp Nou was in February 2006 when they won 1-3.  Since then, the team has drawn once and lost 6 times in the Can Blaugrana.

In September 2011, Barça handed Atlético a manita thrashing during which new recruit Falcao could only stand and watch as Messi, Villa and Co ran riot down the other end.  Messi scored a hat-trick in that game.

The return match at the Calderón was tighter.  Alves scored in the first half, before sleepy Blaugrana defence allowed Falcao to equalise just after the second half started.  A very cheeky Messi freekick saved the game and Barça scrapped out a tense 1-2 win. VV was my MotM that night.

 

Atléti’s Recent Form
Since Simeone took over as Atléti’s manager, the club has grown in stature and shown remarkable improvement on the pitch.

At the end of last season, they won the Europa League by decimating Athletic Bilbao 3-0.  Atléti’s fast-paced, high-pressure man-marking left the Bilbao players floundering and often stripped of the ball before they could realise what was happening, and the Basque defence was torn to shreds.

This season saw Atléti continue that rampant form by taking apart Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup – winning 4-1 with Falcao scoring a hat-trick with some fine goals that were worthy of the occasion.

Ex-Blaugrana player Patrick Kluivert was at the game to award Falcao the Man of the Match Trophy.  Falcao laughingly told the Dutchman, “I avenged your Barça!” (Referring to Chelsea defeating our team in the Champions League.)

The Madrid team currently sits second with 37 points on the Liga Table – 6 points behind Barcelona and 5 points ahead of Real Madrid before this weekend’s fixtures.  Their remarkable 12 wins, 1 draw and 2 loss (Valencia and Real Madrid) record is only eclipsed by the current form of Barca with 14 wins and 1 draw.

 

The Inevitable Messi and Falcao Mention
I won’t dwell on it too much because, this week, every sporting publication has covered the Messi-Falcao match-up – and done it to death.

Falcao is very much a goal-scoring specialist but he’s also great in defence and will track back to help his team-mates.  He has already accumulated a few Yellow cards (4 this season) while doing that.

Radamel (nicknamed El Tigre) is currently 2nd in the Pichichi race with 16 goals (6 penalties), behind Messi on 23 goals (1 penalty).

His amazing 5 goal haul in last week’s game against Deportivo should have seen numerous leading press articles and accolades, but his effort was overshadowed by Messi beating Gerd’s 86 goals in the game against Betis, which was the very next game played in La Liga after Atléti’s game had finished.  Falcao had about 60 minutes of fame before Messi grabbed the headlines once more.

Interestingly, Falcao has not been played in the Europa League this season, leading to speculation that he will be leaving during the January transfer window.  Chelsea and Real Madrid are in the hunt for the goal-hungry striker.

Notably, he has only ever taken 1 free-kick – from which he scored – giving Atléti a 0-1 win in the 90th minute during this season’s away match vs. Real Sociedad.  It was a gut-wrenching finish for the home team who had fought so valiantly for the whole game.

The FCB website has an article which compares Messi and Falcao’s statistics:  Messi and Falcao go Head-to-Head   From the stats, you can see the distinct differences in their styles of play.

 

The Return of El Cholo
Diego Simeone’s return to the club as coach was an inspired move.  After playing 2 seasons for Los Colchoneros (1994-97 and 2003-05), the Argentine left for his last club, Racing.  He retired as a player to also coach Racing in 2006, before returning to Argentina to coach Estudiantes, River Plate and San Lorenzo.

In 2011, he headed to Italy to manage Catania (helping them to avoid relegation), before being lured back to Spain for another stint at Racing.

Halfway through the 2011/12 season, Simeone replaced Gregorio Manzano as coach of Atléti and is currently leading them through one of the most successful periods in team history.

Simeone’s contract is due for renewal, and the coach is being non-committal about his plans.  His sister and agent, Natalia Simeone, flies into Madrid this weekend to begin the negotiation process with Atléti’s CEO, Miguel Ángel Gil Marín.  The club hopes to have retained Simeone’s services by the end of next week.  Simeone has also expressed a desire to return to Italy at some stage.

 

Los Colchoneros
Falcao isn’t the only danger man up front for Atléti, although his goal-scoring statistics are roughly the same as Messi’s in relation to their team-mates’ efforts.  In other words, they’ve scored a lot more than the others.

Atléti’s front-line is extremely strong, with big Brazilian Diego Costa usually marauding down the left and firing in pinpoint crosses to Falcao, with Adrián López playing on the right.  Adrián received a knock to his knee in the mid-week CdR game against Getafe and hobbled to the sidelines, but he has been cleared to play again.

Belgian GK, Thibaut Courtois, has proved to be a worthy replacement for David de Gea over the past couple of seasons.  Courtois is on-loan from Chelsea.  Atlético has a very solid backline in Diego Godín, Filipe Luis, Juanfran and Cata Díaz.  Mid-field is spoiled for choice with any combination of Arda Turan, Gabi (captain), Koke, Mario Suárez and maybe Tiago.  Cristian Rodríguez is out with a hamstring injury.

 

The Home Team
Tito should be expecting the visitors to pressure from the start, as his interview was full of praise for Atlético’s style which is to defend and attack using all the players on the pitch.

Injured:  Cesc is out until after the New Year, joining Abidal, Cuenca and Muniesa in the stands.

I expect to see the strongest line-up that we have:
VV, Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Alexis, Messi and Adriano.

 

The game kicks off on Sunday 16th Dec at 9pm CET.

Click here to convert the match time to your timezone: FC Barcelona vs. Atlético de Madrid

Streams for the match are usually found on First Row, Roja Directa and Bar TV.

 

The temperature dropped quite a bit for Barcelona standards as the Pyrénées received lots of snow over the past week. It was cold enough to break out the thermal blankets for the pitch.  The weather has got milder again, and the conditions for the match are forecast to be fine with a low of about 10°C/49°F.

The Camp Nou pitch shivering under thermal blankets earlier this week
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46 Comments

  1. nia
    December 15, 2012

    I’m kinda not looking foward to this game as i feel that Athleti are a tough team and there is a posibility of losing points tomorrow. Having said that, i believe Barca have peaked at the right time and are playing some fantastic stuff. They just need to maintain that level for the whole 90 mins tomorrow. Piquenbauer is back(oh did we miss him last yr) and Iniesta is playing some good stuff.

    It’s gonna be a tough game, seeing that they dissapointed in the derby as usual, they’re gonna come fighting like it’s a final as they always do after they lose to EE. I believe El Tigre is gonna go back to Madrid with a lot of fleas in his coat.

  2. nzm
    December 15, 2012

    The referee for the match is the extremely card-happy Miguel Pérez Lasa who loves issuing Yellow/Reds.

    The last Barcelona game for him was the 0-5 vs. Rayo Vallecano.

    In Feb 2012, he also refereed the last game between Barça and Atlético at the Calderón, in which he issued 12 Yellow Cards and let Messi take the freekick without the whistle.

    Mourinho hates him – so he must be ok. 😀

  3. 505
    December 15, 2012

    messi vs falcao? all this time i’ve been thinking puyi vs suarez 🙂

    seriously though, i am so scared about this match!! atleti always face us like it’s the apocalypse.

    i originally wanted adriano at the back and villa in front, but now that i think about it, your lineup looks pretty effective, nzm

  4. Jafri
    December 16, 2012

    So I’m guessing we won’t get to wear the Club World Cup winner’s crest starting from this match?

  5. barca96
    December 16, 2012

    Nice to see the NBA players giving a minute silence for the victim’s and their respect families. Hopefully they’ll do the same tonight at Camp Nou.

    Sorry Hazard, Oscar and Mata but go Corinthians!! I want Chelsea to be the worst winners ever.

    • 505
      December 16, 2012

      full time!! corinthians 1 – 0 chelsea

      • Messiah10
        December 16, 2012

        That’s awesome! Tim Vickery was saying how stout Corinthians defense is and how they had a chance. I thought it slim, but am so happy for them! They had a huge supporter base travel to Japan for the game! Looks like Rafa will be on the chopping block for this one! lol. As if Pep would entertain going to Chelski.

        • nzm
          December 16, 2012

          Last year, Santos had a massive amount of supporters in the stadium when they played the final against Barca. Those Brazilians love to travel to support their teams!

  6. barca96
    December 16, 2012

    Yes. 1-0. But on the other hand, at the moment Barca is the only team to have won it twice and if Corinthians wins this one, they will have 2 wins too.

    Which do you guys prefer?

    • barca96
      December 16, 2012

      On second thoughts, I think I’d prefer club over personal preference so I prefer Corinthians not to equal Barca’s record.

      Chelsea will still be known as the worst champion. It’s just that if they lose this one, they will cement their positions as the worst ever after going losing the Super cup and going out in the ground stage.

    • nzm
      December 16, 2012

      Chelsea lost.

      They don’t get to wear the CWC badge. They didn’t deserve to inherit it from Barca.

      Nothing else matters. 😀

      • mom4
        December 16, 2012

        Yep! Now if we win my day will be perfect. And imagine my bliss if EE manage to drop points against Esp—oh nevermind—there’s always next week.

    • Art is a blast
      December 16, 2012

      Fact is, if madrid would play 11 home grown players one day( hehe….so far away…) I bet Casillas would be the 1st one to talk non-stop about it.

      • 505
        December 16, 2012

        and i hope xavi will be standing by to tell him off

    • December 16, 2012

      What a nasty, mean-spirited, and just plain wrong article. Whether Song is having trouble adapting to Barça’s style of play is a matter for debate, but the author conveniently ignores other purchases who have fit in seamlessly with the homegrown players–Mascherano, Adriano, Abidal.

      And he seriously thinks that players like Romario and Rivaldo wouldn’t be able to play with this team?

      • replayed
        December 16, 2012

        The bitterness of that piece was kinda hilarious. The whole thing essentially boiled down to: This Barcelona team is bound to stop winning someday, and, er… I can’t wait for it to happen!

        What a hoot.

    • Messiah10
      December 16, 2012

      For all the doomsday talk he spouts, his main point is mute. Song has assimilated to Barca. He’s put in solid performances. Some of them have been really really good. Others have left room for improvement. After all, it’s his 1st season and he didn’t even have a preseason to prepare. The article seems like sour grapes to me. To say Ronaldinho wouldn’t fit in with this team at his peak is nonsensical. Romario would’ve been on par with Messi for total goals. His point that Messi won’t last forever is right. However, at 25 we don’t have to worry about that for the foreseeable future! lol. Messi won’t be able to be replaced by ANYONE! Players like him come around every 30 years or so. So, we won’t be looking to replace him like for like. It’s impossible. The article is pretentious and bitter.

  7. mom4
    December 16, 2012

    “Will la pulga bite el tigre?”

    About 20 years ago we babysat our neighbor’s cat for a week. This was before my cat allergies were so bad. We ended up with fleas in our carpet. Took us weeks to fully get rid of them.

    The point is:

    FLEA BITES HURT—BADLY!!! My money’s on the flea!

    • barca96
      December 16, 2012

      Haha. Very funny.

      So we have rat winning vs. elephant and now even a flea can beat a tiger 🙂

    • replayed
      December 16, 2012

      It’s not the pain that does it. It’s the radioactivity.

  8. December 16, 2012

    Speaking of Romario, I don’t how I missed this fantastic video the club put out last month as the first in a series of “Barça Legends”. It’s 18 minutes long, so grab some popcorn and settle in:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfVBnVZyQN0

    Some of the music choices are a bit odd…

    • nzm
      December 16, 2012

      Romario videos have been in vogue witb Barca TV, TV3 and GolT all showing them recently. He’s amazing.

    • Messiah10
      December 16, 2012

      Thanks for posting that! I missed it too. Romario was so incredible. One of the greatest to play the game. His 1st touch was amazing. It would be incredible to see him with this team. He and Messi would go nuts! He and Messi also NEVER go down. Many of the goals they show on that video have him fighting through the back line to score. It’s a shame so many footballers go down so easily nowadays. He also opened our account in many games. Scoring important 1st goals. Some of his chips are so absurd I don’t know how to describe them! 🙂 This video made my morning. Now I’m looking forward to a fantastic game against a worthy opponent. It won’t be easy, but I think we’ll win 2-1.

  9. Messiah10
    December 16, 2012

    nzm, thanks for posting the FCB Messi/Falcao comparison article. It’s interesting to see how Messi has 15 away goals to Falcao’s 3! Hopefully, we help keep that stat the same after today’s game. Falcao also has 6 penalties as you mention above. The one stat that jumped out to me was Messi’s recovery number. After conceding possession 166 times he’s only recovered 16! I know that’s because of the strategy to rest Messi between offensive stints, but in this game it will be crucial for him to recover the ball asap. We are going to have to have every play give their all to take this game.

    • Art is a blast
      December 16, 2012

      Btw, isn’t Messi going to wear fan designed boots? I hope it’s lucky for him!

      • nzm
        December 16, 2012

        Yes – they’re red and white – Atleti’s colours! 🙂

    • nzm
      December 16, 2012

      Yup – tonight is the night that we need to see Messi in defence too.

      • ooga aga
        December 16, 2012

        also six of falcaos goals are from PKs, to one for messi

  10. December 16, 2012

    Happily forfeit this game for a future healthy messi…el pulga don’t you dare track back! Love you the way you are(i’m sure messiah does too buh he is greedy he wants more!).

  11. Clouseau
    December 16, 2012

    Love this Duell one of my favourites in LaLiga. Kind of worried about Atlétis fast transition football esspecially their narrow fullbacks makes me uncomfortable^^

    I’d rather like to see Adriano in right wing position and Alexis as LW though i’m sure he’ll start as rb today.

    Started watching Esp vs RM game very smart move from Aguirre to sub pff Wakaso always on the verge for getting yellow card.
    And Garcia scores hehehehe

    • Art is a blast
      December 16, 2012

      What’s the score line?

      • Clouseau
        December 16, 2012

        1:1 now Ronaldo scored last seconds before HT. Psychological perfect moment.

        • nzm
          December 16, 2012

          They couldn’t hold on for 10 seconds more! Yeesh.

  12. December 16, 2012

    There will be a liveblog today. Post will go up as soon as I return from Beers of the World

  13. Clouseau
    December 16, 2012

    Line ups : Valdés, Adriano, Piqué, Puyol, Xavi, Alba, Iniesta, Alexis, Messi, Busquets, Pedro,

    Atléti : Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godín, Filipe Luis; Mario Suarez, Gabi; Arda Turan, Koke, Diego Costa; Falcao #Simeone

  14. nzm
    December 16, 2012

    Well – I think that we can call the RM game a write-off for Espanyol!

    • Clouseau
      December 16, 2012

      Yepp normal service resumed.. same old same hehe. But hey at least they have scored it’s been a looooong Time^^

      On that part Aguirre already surpast Pochettino.

      • nzm
        December 16, 2012

        Interesting to watch RM play with a 3 man back-line too! At least for the first half, and now they’re protecting their lead and back to 4 mostly.

  15. December 16, 2012

    There will be a liveblog today. I’ll set it up as soon as I’m back from Beers of the World

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