Games between Atlético and Barça are always something special and tomorrow evening’s clash at the Vicente Calderon should be no exception as Barça seek to clinch the fourth Liga in five years and the 22nd overall. Of course Barça’s celebrations may begin tonight if second-placed Real Madrid fail to beat Español at Cornellà-El Prat. Either way Tito Vilanova will be hoping to finish the season in style.
Judging from the press this week the only matter of importance would appear to be the possible new signings for next season. The list for this week includes Reina, Ter Stegen, Thiago Silva, Hummels, Marquinhos, David Luiz, Iñigo Martinez, Mathieu, Gundogan, Matuidi, Isco, Veratti, Reus, Rooney, Suarez, Fischer and of course Neymar to name just a few, while according to El Mundo Deportivo the only untouchables of the present squad are Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets and Piqué.
Whoever we sign, and Neymar still seems the most likely of all the candidates with Sandro Rosell reportedly negotiating with representatives of Santos in Madrid yesterday, the present squad deserve more respect and the achievement of regaining the league should not be undervalued.
Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano are both nearing the end of their recuperations and Mascherano may receive medical clearance in time for tomorrow’s game. Barça will again be without Victor Valdés, who suffered a recurrence of his foot injury in training, and Eric Abidal who has a minor calf injury. Nevertheless, Vilanova has named the entire first team squad for the trip to Madrid so that nobody misses out on the possible celebration, while the only B team player included is keeper Jordi Masip who has been called up due to Valdés’s injury.
Leo Messi and Sergio Busquets are apparently back to 100% so they should be fine to play the 90 minutes tomorrow, so we could see a starting XI of Pinto, Alves, Piqué, Adriano, Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Alexis, Messi and Pedro, though Vilanova could also give a start to Bartrá, Fabregas, Tello or Villa.
Opponents Atlético have little to play for as whatever happens in their remaining four matches they will almost certainly finish up in third place. Like Barça Cholo Simeone’s men had an excellent first half to the season but have dropped in form in the last three months. Their home form had been impeccable with thirteen wins out of thirteen in La Liga up until the end of February but since then they have only managed one win and one draw from their last four league games at the Calderon. Last season Barça won the corresponding fixture 1-2 with goals from Dani Alves and this fantastic free-kick from Messi.
Atlético: Coutois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Insúa; Tiago, Gabi; Adrian, Turan, Koke; Falcao.
Barça: Pinto; Alves, Piqué, Adriano, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Alexis, Messi, Pedro.
Prediction: Atlético 2 Barça 3
Date: Sunday 12 May 2013. Kick off 7 pm local time.