Sunday’s match against Atletico Madrid presents Barcelona with a big opportunity in the La Liga title race.
Following Real Madrid’s 2-1 defeat to Villarreal on Saturday, Barca have the chance to go three points clear at the summit with a victory at the Metropolitano.
It won’t be easy, as it never is when facing Diego Simeone’s resilient Atleti side. It will most certainly be even more difficult without talisman Robert Lewandowski, who starts a three-match ban following his red card against Osasuna in November. The pole’s ban was originally suspended, but was eventually upheld following Barca’s appeal.
The big debate going into the match surrounds who will replace Lewandowski in the starting eleven. Ansu Fati, Ferran Torres and Memphis Depay are the options available to Xavi, but both Sport and Marca expect 20-year-old Fati to be given the nod.
Frenkie De Jong is expected to start as the pivot for Barcelona against Atleti, with club captain Sergio Busquets dropping to the bench. The Dutchman is being touted as the future occupant of the position when Busquets leaves the club. Jules Kounde is set to return to the side following his World Cup excursions, replacing Sergi Roberto at right back.
Atleti are predicted to return to a 4-4-2 formation for Sunday’s match, having opted for 3-4-3 against Elche in their last La Liga outing. Alvaro Morata scored in that game, but he is expected to drop out, with Antoine Griezmann and Joao Felix starting up top for Los Rojiblancos. Pablo Barrios looks set to keep his place in midfield, and will face off against two more of Spain’s brightest talents in Pedri and Gavi.
A win for Atleti could see them rise to third, providing that Real Socieded fail to defeat Almeria in the early kick-off on Sunday.
Source by Football Espana