Atletico Madrid head into the derby match in great spirits after the strong start to the league campaign, but also eager to get revenge on Barcelona for four successive defeats. The Catalans haven’t had the desired start of the season, but another victory over los Colchoneros would definitely help them return to the right track.
After they had lifted the La Liga trophy and narrowly missed out on the Champions League title the year before, last season was not exactly a huge success for los Colchoneros, but that only goes to show how much the expectations have risen over the last few years. The club chiefs quickly regrouped and decided to make the squad even stronger during the summer, and no doubt Jackson Martinez, Luciano Vietto, Stefan Savic, Filipe Luis and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco will prove great signings for the club. Talented midfielder Oliver Torres also returned from a very successful loan spell at FC Porto, and taking everything into account, Atletico do look stronger than last term in spite of departures of Arda Turan, Mario Mandzukic and Mario Suarez. And while they experienced some problems in the opening match against Las Palmas, los Colchoneros proved their worth by hammering Europa League holders Sevilla 3-0 on the road, although they will have even bigger fish to fry on Saturday evening. And with Diego Simeone’s charges conceding just one goal in last ten matches (friendlies included), we can expect another strong defensive performance from the side that has absolutely no selection problems at the moment.
This has been a largely disappointing start for Barcelona’s standards, as the Catalans first came very close to squandering a three-goal lead in the UEFA Super Cup before suffering 4-0 loss in the Spanish Super Cup first leg clash with Athletic that ended their dreams of a perfect campaign. And while Luis Enrique’s side did win their first two La Liga fixtures, 1-0 wins over Athletic and Malaga, and especially under-par performances in those matches cannot exactly give them hope of extending the excellent run in meetings with Atletico. It was the 1-0 triumph at Vicente Calderon in the penultimate match of last season that saw Barcelona clinch the La Liga trophy, and everything suggests we will see another tight game with chances few and far between. The fact that both Leo Messi and Javier Mascherano have returned late from international duty is another major issue since chances are they will have to play without even training with the team. And with the likes of Gerard Pique, Dani Alves, Claudio Bravo and Sergi Roberto all missing, Barcelona could face a tough task in Madrid.
Atletico Madrid will be quite happy to sit back and wait for the opposition to make mistakes, and Barcelona do not appear capable of breaking their hard-working opponents given then poor run of form. We could, therefore, witness a game without too many excitement, with under 2.5 goals the obvious choice.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 7/10
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