Saturday afternoon sees the most important match of the season in La Liga.
Although Real Madrid and Sevilla, who meet on Sunday, might have something to say about that, the Barcelona v Atletico Madrid match is arguably the bigger game.
That’s because Atleti can boot Barca out of the title race with a win, and keep their noses ahead of Los Blancos and Sevilla with their destiny remaining in their own hands.
Barcelona simply have to win, and then hope that Sevilla can do them a favour on Sunday.At present, Real Madrid have a better head to head record than the other three teams in with a shout of glory.
In Spain, goal difference doesn’t matter. If two teams are on the same points at the end of the season, league positions are dictated by who had the better record in the head to head meetings.
That Barca are even in the conversation at this point of the season is something of a minor miracle.
After 10 games of the 2020/21 campaign, the Catalans had dropped 11 points behind Atleti, and only an epic run from the start of the new year has got them to within touching distance of another league triumph.
Had they beaten Granada a week ago, as expected, Barca could’ve afforded to draw against Atleti and still win the title, but the loss against the Andalusians has taken things back out of their hands again.
Ronald Koeman will be hoping that Atleti old boy, Antoine Griezmann, shows up against his former employers.
He hasn’t since his switch to Camp Nou, but he does have eight goals and an assist in his last nine games, and his partnership with Lionel Messi is flourishing. Not before time it must be said.
By contrast, Luis Suarez, who missed the reverse encounter at the Wanda Metropolitano, has gone right off of the boil.
There was a period when every time he received the ball you felt El Pistolero would find the net, but that’s something he’s only managed on three occasions since mid-February.
Atleti also have a very poor record against Barca in the league, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be a pushover.
The last time they came to the stadium with something to play for was on the final day of the season in 2013/14.
A draw was all they needed, and a draw is precisely what they achieved. And with it, the championship.
If Barca want to have a fighting chance, they’ll have to be on their guard.