Tomorrow’s game is personally, aside from the Clasico, my favorite fixture of the season. Barcelona – Atlético de Madrid games are always, always entertaining. It has been said at times they are our bogey team, and there is merit to that. Quite often in the past, Atlético would save their best performance of the season for us and beat us (the complete opposite of what they do against Real Madrid, but that’s another story). But, that was more often than not at the Vicente Calderon. At the Camp Nou, we have been running rather well against them and I’m sure many remember high scoring games where we put on some exquisite football. We are undefeated at home against them since 2006, scoring 16 goals and conceding 6 in those last 4 encounters. Last year we won 5-2, in 2009 we scored 5 goals within the first 30 minutes and won 6-1, 2008 it was 4-2, and in 2007 we only managed a 1-1 (but we did win 6-0 away from home).
Tonight Barça can also set a record that could well take another 50 years to beat. If we win tonight it will be the 16th La Liga victory in a row, surpassing the 1960/1 record of 15 held by the great Di Stefano’ Real Madrid. This would be a wonderful and prestige record to hold.
Speaking of records, Pedro has the chance to match a pretty special club honor. He has now scored in the last 6 Liga games, equaling a record held by the great Stoichkov. If he scores again tonight, he will equal a 7 game scoring streak held by none other than former honorary president of FC Barcelona (in my mind, still honorary president) Johan Cruyff from 1973/4.
I’ve been reading some Marca tonight, and it’s quite funny cause they really hoping Atlético manage to do something tomorrow night. It’s not blatant support for them, but there are these undertones in the writing almost urging Atlético to pull of the surprise. Side note, but I found it quite amusing.
Team wise, our only problem is Puyol. He is still out injured with some tendinitis in the knee, which sees Abidal come into centerback where he has been stellar this season. As normal, Maxwell comes in on the left, Pique the main man in the middle, and Alves, who showed zero signs of his previous injury midweek, back on the right. Then it’s the same old brilliance in Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Villa, and Pedro. Though, Iniesta may possibly not start as he comes back from a little knock, but we will only know that at game time.
Atlético are having another one of their signature seasons. That being hugely inconsistent and right now, they are on a real poor patch. They lost last weekend at home to Bilbao 2-0, then lost before that at Gijon, won at home 3-0 to Mallorca, but before that got trashed 4-1 away to Hércules. Their last 10 Liga games, from most recent, read L, L, W, L, D, W, W, L, L, W. Inconsistency at its best. Injury wise they are without the strong, athletic defender Perea and local boy Raúl García. They do have the very impressive De Gea in goals still, and Godín is a solid center back. Midfield wise, in the center you cannot be very impressed with Assunção and Tiago, and I expect our midfield 3 to pass circles around them. Reyes has really made a great comeback in Madrid and offers real danger on the wing, but be warned, he loves to dive and fain injury more than most and can be extremely annoying. But their big guns without question are and have been for some years upfront with the dangerous pairing of Agüero and Forlán. Both were actually subject of huge speculation over January, with Tottenham apparently bidding over 30 million Pounds for Agüero and then trying in a bit of desperation for Forlán late on transfer day. Agüero has recently been largely linked to Chelsea, but Torres’s arrival there could hamper that move for him. I even read today Real Madrid will try for him in the summer. I also do not expect Forlán to be there next year, as I see him trying England out one more time. But all that is not relevant right now as the two of them will be doing their best to knock goals past us tonight. The Argentine has done rather well against us lately, scoring 5 in his last 9 matches against us.
So that’s the preview. I really think this game is going to be a cracker.