Attack of the Hatchet Men: Barça – Atleti

Liga Preview: Barça-Atleti, Saturday 4pmEST, GolTV(HD)

Ah yes, these guys. They who would be kings but for that whole winning of games thing. Minor issue, really, if you put it into the larger perspective of almost 108 years of existence. No domestic titles since 1995-96 (and that “just” a Copa) kind of reverts that perspective to what we had before, though, doesn’t it? You can spend willy-nilly, but if you don’t build a squad, or rather, if you build a squad around Jose Antonio Reyes’ ankles and thigh muscles, you’re pretty sure to be doomed to midtable finishes and the occasional foray into the Europa League.

They signed Fran Merida in the offseason, prompting guffaws from this blogger, then they jettisoned Simao, brought in Juanfran and Elias, and have a back line composed entirely of hatchet men. They wouldn’t if Filipe Luis were ever playing defense, but he is a shadow of his pre-ankle-injury-self and is rarely “at home.” Godin, Ujfalusi, and Perea alone are worth 7 yellow cards a game. It’s pretty spectacular to watch them assassinate others, what with how recklessly they do it, but when it happens to your own, well, color me livid like everyone else. And that, I think, is what this match will be about. Sure, they have Kun, Forlan, and Reyes, but they’re a defense-first kind of team. It’s a mentality, really, an approach to the game that runs, in so many ways, counter to what Barça does.

And these are the last years for this team, the last hurrah of a team that blew away, well, virtually no one. They won the Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup, but how intense were the celebrations? When Barça won the Super Cup I was thrilled because it was another step towards the 6 trophies and I would never begrudge Atleti supporters their rightful share of happiness and success, but is that an impressive haul? Not to me, having vowed, as I have, never to watch the Europa League if Barça is in it. I won’t watch the NIT if Kansas is in it either, to draw the parallel I believe holds water.

It’s not that I look down on Atleti, but rather that I pity them in so many ways. That’s not very fair, of course, because pity is often worse than hatred, but I can’t help it. They try so very hard, but come up short in every conceivable way; they act the big club, but they play the part of the small club on the field. It’s the Villarreals and the Valencias that round out the top 4 in La Liga for me, despite how many times I’ve fallen prey in my preseason predictions to Atleti’s roster’s possibilities.

But you know Atleti. You know this game. It can be wild, it can be crazy, but of late it’s been predictable. Messi has made a mockery of their defense and so have several others. We beat them at the Calderon this year and if things go according to how they’ve gone the last couple of visits, Atleti will be sent packing with a manita pegged squarely on their mattresses. I’m in a bullish mood, that’s for sure. I’m ready for this. It’ll be a fight, but unless Kun is on fire–and he is their “X factor”–they’ll be taking a knife to a shootout.

Sure, they have Kun, they have that Uruguayan looker, but we’ve got a crazy-toothed hero and his band of merry sidekicks. Give me that attack any day, though I certainly respect their firepower. But Pique and Abidal will do the trick, though Forlan has positional sense not seen since, er, well, last time I looked at Bojan. You do realize, don’t you, that they’re pretty much the same player. You know that, right? Watch them play. Watch the way they make their runs. It’s just that Forlan is bigger, taller. And that, I think, is one of the major differences. Bojan will never be the player Forlan is, I don’t think, because of that size factor, but for if you watch them, they play the same way. Much like I’ll never be Pippo Inzaghi, but I am constantly offside.

Team news, in brief: Puyol and Jeffren will be missing for this match through injury, but everyone else is fit. Iniesta trained normally on Thursday and Friday after suffering a back strain on Monday.

Predicted Lineup: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Abidal, Maxwell, Busi, Keita, Xavi, Villa, Messi, Pedro. Resting Iniesta just makes sense if he’s not 100%.

Official Prediction: 4-1. We let in a goal, but maintain our 7 point lead.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. We can’t be too confident. Yes, Atleti has been crap lately, but they always have potential to bring it out for a big game. They won’t roll over because Barca isn’t Real Madrid. I am sure we will win, but they have an amazing GK and we will need to stay sharp to beat him. Forlan hasn’t frankly looked good since the WC.

    Prediction: 3-1

  2. Well, I think 2 international trophies in 1 season is pretty good for them, especially considering they beat the team that knocked us out of the CL. But you’re right, this’ll most likely end up being a high scoring game with us notching a 16th win in a row. Wohoo for beating an EE record!

    1. It was a very good haul for a team like Current Atletico. As in one that doesn’t win a lot of trophies and perennially compete in the CL. A Europa Cup, a Super Cup, a Copa del Rey final. Come on, the likes of Villareal would be delighted if they won a Europa Cup and Super Cup at the end of this season, and Atletico being much worse why shouldn’t they be right?

  3. I’m always conservative and even though I’ve seen how Atletis’ defense has looked in the league, I’ll go with 2-1. I think Aguero and Forlan can cause us problems if we’re sloppy in the back.

  4. Off-topic but what the hell is up with Mazinho(Thiago & Rafa’s Dad);
    “I know Sevilla are interested in Thiago. If he’s not promoted next year, we should look for an exit” .
    Where was he when Pep announced that Thiago would be promoted next season? Did he just came out of a cave? Why is he always trying to get into the limelight?
    Families always make bad agents!

    So next week there is an international break and I expect us to drop some points the match after.

    1. I said a couple of weeks ago I thought Mazinho would still be slightly unhappy and it seems I was right. Fathers really do make the worst agents. Especially one who has had some success in the game and has two extremely talented sons.

      Shutup, Mazinho. Don’t ruin things for your son.

    2. the sad fact is that thiago has spent the recent months with the first team and was doing/saying all the right things.
      One wonders , maybe it was the father that led the barcelona sporting team in charge to put this kid through a more intense tryout than most others.

    3. This sounds like an old or made-up quote to me. He already knows Thiago has been promoted, he would have no reason to say this.

  5. I forgot to add that last time we played Atletico, Busquets played as a 3rd center back. Interested to see if Pep will opt to go that route again.

  6. My only fears are for injuries. Hatchet men as isaiah calls them, i hope messi doesnt pick up any. Next wk int. Friendly has me worried what with injuries esp. Since cl would be a week away. It will be thrilling to see how messi and crynaldo play out in team where their performnces are ussually below par.
    i reckon milito might play today seeing as he seems to be getting back in form.

  7. I would like to know your opinion on Afellay for Villa, especially if Iniesta is being rested today.

    1. It’d be interesting, for sure. I’d think Ibi would go to the LW, and he’s done well there the last couple of games he played. Although, I would like to see Ibi and Iniesta play at the same time (with Andres in the midfield of course). They’d have good chemistry, me thinks.

  8. Always a nice game, but I’m suspicious that quique might take his bus….I’ll be in the stadium!

  9. Great news!
    I have tickets for the Argentina – Portugal match after all! 😀 😀

    Yay, I’m so happy, I’m gonna see Messi (and Thong Boy) in my 1st real life stadium match! Woot woot!

    I’ll try to see them at the airport as well…

    1. That is great news. Enjoy it.
      I’ll be going to the US v. Argentina game in March. Rooting for my country (and secretly Messi at the same time).

    2. Wow, you both are so lucky. I fell for a rumor that the match (USNMT vs Argentina) was going to be played in Seattle (where I live) but no dice (sob!)…

    3. Soccermom, did you get tickets already? Hubby and I are planning on going as well. As a side note, did you know that Barca plays in Washington in July?

    4. Ok, that was a reply to Blitzen down below—–what I meant to say to you is—yep (somewhere in some cheap corner seats and I don’t care how cheap the seats are because I’ll be is the same stadium as greatness (I mean Go USA!) :-D)) and yep (will try to buy tickets as soon as they’re available—-now I have to go below to re-reply to Blitzen

    5. I hate you.

      Have fun! 😀 If you take any pictures and want to share them, or you want to share your experience, I’ll post it for you.

  10. Anyone else want a manita so everyone can stick up 5 fingers in front of Ujfalusi’s face? I know I do. Preferably with a Messi hat trick in the first half so Pep can rest him at HT to avoid the horrors of the first game against Atletico.

    However De Gea is one amazing boy, so I’ll settle with 3-0.

    1. Would love it.
      I think that we may see a slightly more careful version of their back four after the ankle incedent. Ujfalusi might be a little more hesitant, Messi can capitalize on that.

  11. I won’t be around today; having lots of family time (ofcourse I’ll be watching the game w/ hubby (progamming note: US watchers-4:00 EST on GOLTV)). Sooooo- abrazos por todos los cules aqui (no, I don’t know how to do accents on this keyboard).

    @ poipoi-I’m experiencing the green-ey’d monster called envy. Seriously though, enjoy the game!

    Good article: like it when he says”
    “Sell the car, stow away on an ocean liner, move in with the neighbours if they show Spanish football live – just get to see this Barcelona team as often as you can while the blood is throbbing through them.
    No one has ever played better football – don’t be the sucker who misses it.”

    Prediction (with a little hopefullness at possibly seeing Afellay play w/ Xavi)
    Alves, Pique, Abidal, Maxwell
    Xavi, Busi, 3M
    P!!, Messi, Villa
    3-0 (Messi, P!!, 3M)
    Pep might rest the recently recovered Iniesta a little but there’s an internationl break coming up midweek and not a club fixture so I don’t see him resting any of our other starters.

  12. Beating the CL champion Inter 2-0 is a prize anyone would covet and a feather in La Ligas cap me thinks. NIT’s champion against any of the final 4 would have to be a laugher.

  13. Just so you guys know:

    We’re playing EE in the Copa final and it’ll definitely be us who win La Liga, so that means we’ll also play them in the Spanish SuperCopa as well.

    This year alone we’ll play EE 4 times (if we get them in the CL, 6 times). It’d be fun to see us own them at least 4 times but I don’t know if my heart can handle it…

    1. Well 4 (or 6) times this season. But 5 (or 7) times this year. Don’t forget next seasons clasico….. Ouch. Head. Throbbing.

    1. Just popped in for a minute- yes, I am- scary stuff 3-4 and should be 4-4.

      Oops, now it is 4-4 🙁

    2. I despise Joey Barton, but he sure played well in the second half!

      That Arsenal GK needs to step up his game. He is their only option right now, but he seemed to lose confidence as the game went on.

      Cesc, you need to do better than that if you want to come to Barca!

  14. My God I was nearly shaking by the end..Newcastle Football Club..never you die!..jeez the Geordie fans deserve that!!!

  15. Wait… Arsenal-Newcastle finished 4-4?!?!?! Fudge! I thought that game was over (Arsenal had a 0-4 lead within 36 minutes!)

    Shoot! I missed an epic ending, huh? 🙁

    1. I also turned it off assuming Gameover and come back to find arsenal become the 1st EPL team to throw away a 4 goal lead 😆 *Looks for highlights*

  16. That was a spectacular collapse by Arsenal. I went to shower at 4 – 0. Came out and it was 4 – 4. What in the heck…..?

    1. “According to details in a report posted on

      Well, that’s all I need to know. This is total bullsh*t. 🙂

      I know Pep thinks highly of Qatar, but money

    2. Umm, don’t really know what just happened there, but continuing my comment:

      I know Pep thinks highly of Qatar, but money isn’t his first priority. Besides, why would he leave the best club in the world? In the future…well, that’s anyone’s guess. For now, though, the Pepster says!

  17. anyone else watching wolves/man u (so sad I missed the arsenal game), wolves leading 2-1. and really look on par with united.

  18. Need a bit of help here, people. Friend of mine ( with a lot more money than me !) wants to watch a Barca game and stay in the hotel that the Barcelona team stayed in while resting for a match last season up in the hills above the city ( not the W on the beach they used recently) I’m guessing its 5 stars and round about Tibidabo way?) I remember reading about it at the time and remember it as being pretty old world but with luxury trappings and a spa etc.

    Any inhabitants of Barcelona help me with this?

  19. What a INSANE playday this is!

    Bayern leading 2-0 at half-time, in Cologne, the 16th placed team of the Bundesliga, and they end up losing 2-3.
    ManUtd loses its first game of the season after taking the lead at Wolverhampton, the same place where Chelsea lost some weeks ago (both times, Wolves were at the very bottom of the EPL).
    Arsenal… I’m speechless. During the first half, I actually thought they might be a true challenge for us. But what the heck?!? I left after the 1-4, and although Arsenal was one man down, I thought they will never ever throw away this lead. They can be thankful to Wolves.

    All these crazy results boost my worries about our match. Damn, we are THAT close to making history and surpassing another record from the possibly greatest Madrid side ever.

    1. Arsenal should be PISSED. They had a perfect opportunity to cut into Man Utd’s lead.

      It’s definitely been the matchday for underdogs, but it’s Pathetico at home. We’ve beat them 6-1 and 5-2 under Pep. They only really threaten at the Calderon and we already beat them there this season.

      We should approach the game with some caution, because teams in crisis tend to pull something out of their arses, but I’m not worried.

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