Fresh from Wednesday’s three-goal loss to Benfica in the Champions League, Barcelona will resume their La Liga campaign with a clash against Atletico Madrid at Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday night.
The defeat in Portugal piled the pressure on Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman, but Spanish champions Atletico will enter the match off the back of an impressive 2-1 victory at AC Milan in the Champions League.
Atletico made a strong to their 2021-22 La Liga title defence, winning four and drawing two of their first six matches, but they have dropped down into fourth spot in the table courtesy of last weekend’s shock defeat at Alaves, who had lost every league game this season ahead of the clash with the capital giants.
Diego Simeone’s side are only three points behind division leaders Real Madrid, though, and as mentioned, will enter this match off the back of an impressive Champions League win, having come from behind to beat Italian giants AC Milan at San Siro on Tuesday night.
Milan took the lead in the 20th minute of the contest through Rafael Leao, but Antoine Griezmann levelled the scores in the 84th minute before Luis Suarez came up with a spectacular 97th-minute winner for the visitors.
Atletico will now be looking to return to winning ways in Spain’s top flight and pile the pressure on Koeman, who is expected to remain in charge for Saturday’s clash at Wanda Metropolitano, although the Dutchman will not actually be on the bench, as he is serving the second of a two-game touchline suspension.
The Red and Whites recorded a 1-0 win over Barcelona when the two teams met in Madrid last season, and the capital giants are actually unbeaten in their last three La Liga contests with Saturday’s opponents, having picked up a point in a goalless draw when they last met at Camp Nou in May.
Barring any surprises, there will not be a change of manager at Barcelona ahead of this match, but it seems unlikely that Koeman will keep his job for much longer unless there is a huge turnaround in form.
Barcelona have not been at their best in La Liga this season, but it has not been a disastrous start, as they are still unbeaten across six matches, recording three wins and three draws to collect 12 points, which has left them in sixth position in the table, five points off leaders Real Madrid with a game in hand.
Indeed, a win on Saturday makes the picture a lot prettier for the Catalan giants, but they are bottom of their Champions League group, having lost their opening two fixtures 3-0 to Bayern Munich and Benfica.
The Catalan giants recorded a 3-0 win over Levante in the league last time out, but they have struggled to draws with Granada and Cadiz in recent weeks, and there is no question that it has been difficult for the team to find their rhythm after a tough summer, largely due to their financial problems.
Whether Koeman is still in charge for the clash with Valencia on October 17 remains to be seen, but Barcelona, despite their issues, have the players to go and win at Wanda Metropolitano, and it will be fascinating to see what occurs in the Spanish capital on Saturday night.
Losing. That’s not style, that’s pragmatism. Ronald Koeman is doomed but if there was even the slightest chance of staying on, it would be by winning at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano. But a few more days of Koeman in the dugout could be devastating for the rest of the year.
Xavi Hernandez is the man… and anything less than Xavi will be a stopgap that will further prolong the crisis and bring Barcelona closer to AC Milan and further away from Pep Guardiola.
Soon we will talk about whether Xavi is the best possible coach for Barcelona with his unique way of thinking about football, his desire for possession and an emphasis on the 4-3-3 formation. But what Barcelona need now is peace. Xavi cannot guarantee results, but the consensus is already there.
Barcelona and Atletico Madrid met for the first time in 1925, in what is now known as the Copa del Rey but was at the time named the Copa de Su Majestad El Rey Alfonso XIII.
Barcelona had progressed to the semi-final stage by topping a group featuring Valencia and Stadium de Zaragoza, while Atletico had defeated Sevilla over three matches to top their two-team group.
Barcelona won the first leg 3-2, but Atletico fought back to take a 2-1 victory in the return. The rules of the competition necessitated a playoff, which Barcelona won 2-1. They then defeated Arenas Club 2-0 in the final to secure their sixth Copa del Rey trophy.
NAME: Atlético Madrid – Barcelona
DATE: 2 Oct 2021
TIME: 19:00 UTC
VENUE: Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain