LaLiga braced for heavyweight clash as Barca-Atleti meet after international break
Written by: La Liga
With the league's big two wobbling, this seems an opportunity for Los Colchoneros to mount a title challenge.
LaLiga Santander returns from the international break this weekend with leaders Barcelona visiting third-placed Atletico Madrid, along with the prospect of some fresh starts and welcome friends-reunited stories.
Saturday’s game at Wanda Metropolitano should be one of the top events of 2018/19 so far, with current table-toppers Barcelona kicking off just one point ahead of hosts Atletico in what is shaping up to be the tightest LaLiga Santander title race in decades.
In team news, blaugrana captain Lionel Messi showed no ill effects on his return from a broken arm in his team's most recent league game while Atleti teenager Francisco Montero could keep his place at centre-back given the injury issues within the rojiblanco squad.
Barça could well have dropped to second by kick off on Saturday, as surprise package Alaves will jump to the top of the table should they win at Leganes in Friday evening’s game. The two coaches at Butarque – Alaves’ Abelardo Fernandez and Leganes’ Mauricio Pellegrino – know each other well; they were, of course, teammates at the Camp Nou during the 1998/99 season.
Saturday also sees Santiago Solari’s first game as Real Madrid’s new permanent head coach after picking up league wins over Valladolid and Celta Vigo as interim boss. Another three points won’t be easy, however, given Eibar’s strong record at their tight Ipurua ground.
The action then switches to Valencia, where a Los Che side still looking for their first home league win of 2018/19 welcome to Mestalla a 19th-placed Rayo Vallecano team in great need of points. 20th-placed Huesca also really need a victory to kickstart their season but Saturday’s visitors to El Alcoraz Levante have won three of their six games on the road so far this term.
Sunday’s game brings together two other teams who will be aiming for a change of fortune after the international break, with Athletic Club hosting Getafe at San Mames.
Depending on results earlier in the weekend, Sevilla may have a chance to go top themselves by beating Valladolid on Sunday, although the visitors to the Sanchez-Pizjuan have lost only once on the road since returning to LaLiga Santander this season.
Sunday will also see Espanyol aiming for a sixth victory in six at home this term, while Catalan neighbours Girona also have a 100% record at Cornella El-Prat, having won on their only LaLiga visit to date last season. Espanyol's coach Rubi will recognise many of the opposition side, having taken charge of Girona in LaLiga 1l2l3 back in 2012/13.
The final two games of the matchday have a distinct Mexican feel to them, pitting LaLiga Santander’s four Mexican internationals against each other.
Sunday’s game between Villarreal against Real Betis then brings together two of LaLiga’s most inconsistent sides this season and also two close friends in Mexico internationals Miguel Layun and Andres Guardado.
Turning to Monday, Real Sociedad’s experienced centre-back Hector Moreno will welcome his ‘El Tri' international colleague Nestor Araujo of Celta Vigo to Anoeta, in what will be new Celta coach Miguel Cardoso’s first LaLiga game in charge of the Galician side.
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As two of the biggest clubs in Spanish football, the Rojiblancos and the Blaugrana have played out some classics over the years. Here are five of the best.
- 1950/51 LaLiga Matchday 2: AtléticoMadrid6-4 Barcelona
Atleti won their fourth league title in the 1950/51 season, buoyed by a statement win in just the second round of the season. After losing their opener against Athletic Club by a 4-0 scoreline, Los Rojiblancos needed a response when they hosted Barcelona the following week. They did exactly that.
Barça took an early lead through Marcos Aurelio after just three minutes but Atleti his five without reply through Adrián Escudero, Rafael Mújica, Durán, Henry Carlsson and Escudero to put themselves 5-1 up after 50 minutes. There were still four goals to be scored – three from Barcelona (a César Rodríguez brace and another from Aurelio) and one from Atlético’s José Juncosa – making for an incredible final score of 6-4.
- 1992/93 Copa del Rey Round of 16, 2nd leg: Barcelona 6-0 AtléticoMadrid
Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona were at their best in a Copa del Rey meeting with Atlético in February 1993. They won the first leg at the old Vicente Calderón stadium by a 5-0 scoreline, with two goals from Michael Laudrup and another three from Txiki Begiristain, Julio Salinas and Dutchman Richard Witschge.
They went one better at the Camp Nou, however, picking up a 6-0 victory to complete an almost unbelievable 11-0 aggregate scoreline. Begiristain and Salinas got on the scoresheet again, as did Albert Ferrer, Òscar and Goran Vučević (2).
- 1995/96 Copa del Rey final: Barcelona 0-1 AtléticoMadrid
Atléti enacted revenge for their Copa del Rey humiliation three years later, topping Barcelona in the 1996 final at R. Zaragoza’s La Romareda stadium.
1996 would prove Cruyff’s last season in charge in the Catalan capital, but was one to remember for Atleti, as they completed the only league and cup double in their history.
The 90 minutes finished with the scores locked at 0-0, but Atleti came out on top in extra time thanks to Milinko Pantic’s 102nd minute header past keeper Carlos Busquets, the father of current Barça star Sergio Busquets.
- 2013/14 LaLiga Matchday 38: Barcelona 1-1 AtléticoMadrid
Atleti won a first LaLiga title since their double-winning 1995/96 season at the Camp Nou in dramatic style on the final day of the campaign. Diego Simeone’s side travelled to Catalonia knowing that a win or a draw would be enough to secure the championship; Barça, on the other hand, would make the trophy theirs with a win on home soil.
Although the home side went ahead in the 34th minute through an Alexis Sánchez rocket, Diego Godín headed home from a corner four minutes after the break to level the scores. It remained 1-1, with Atlético putting in a strong defensive shift and earning a standing ovation from the Barcelona supporters.
- 2014/15 LaLiga Matchday 37: AtléticoMadrid0-1 Barcelona
Exactly one year to the day after Atleti’s title-winning result at the Camp Nou, Barça won the LaLiga Santander trophy back at the Vicente Calderón.
A delightful second-half goal from Lionel Messi saw the Catalans pick up a 1-0 away win to wrap up the title with a week to spare, ultimately beating Real Madrid by two points.
Published: Fri Nov 23, 2018 07:57 PM IST