Sunday sees Xavi and Diego Simeone go head-to-head in La Liga at the Spotify Camp Nou. We look ahead to the clash with our Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid prediction and preview.
The Quick Hits
- Barcelona have not gone without a goal in three consecutive games in La Liga since 1989. They have not scored in their last two.
- Barcelona predicted to defeat Atlético by the Opta supercomputer (46.1%), with the away side being given a 25.2% chance of victory.
- Antoine Griezmann has scored five goals in his last eight La Liga games and faces his former team on Sunday.
There has been no shortage of absurdity in La Liga this season. Barcelona lead the league by 11 points but their shortcomings were revealed in Europe – they were dumped out of the Champions League group stage and the Europa League pre-last 16 with little fuss. Atlético Madrid have arguably been the best team in the league since the turn of the year but sit so far behind the league leaders that a late surge up the table is practically impossible.
Real Madrid are sandwiched between the two in second and have looked mediocre all season. Yet they find themselves in another Champions League semi-final having beaten Liverpool and Chelsea in the knockout stages to get there. They look as strong as ever in Europe.
So, which end is up? Are Barcelona really this good? Is everybody else really this bad? Welcome to La Liga 2022-23.
This game might not go a long way in deciding the standings at the end of the season, but it could help us crack the code of this season’s La Liga and to understand which direction both these teams are travelling in.
Diego Simeone has consistently struggled in this fixture. He has managed more games at Camp Nou without a win as Atlético Madrid manager than at any other venue (15).
Barcelona boss Xavi Hernández has won both of his La Liga games against Atlético de Madrid, 4-2 in February 2022 and 1-0 in January 2023, and can become only the second coach in Barcelona’s history to win his first three games against them in the competition after Luis Enrique (the first four between 2015 and 2016).
Barcelona have welcomed Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembele back to training after muscle injuries but it is unclear if they will make it in time for Sunday afternoon’s showdown. Atlético are still missing Memphis Depay and will also be without Marcos Llorente and Geoggrey Kondogbia due to suspension.
Atletico Madrid 0-1 Barcelona: 8 January 2023 (La Liga)
This was another game from the land of the bizarre. Atlético Madrid had twice as many shots as Barcelona and also had more than double Barcelona’s xG total but Simeone’s side still somehow lost.
There has been some debate about how Xavi eventually wants his team to play with this season going down as one of transition. They ceded possession in a game against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey recently, opting – or being forced – to play on the counter. This contradicts the Barcelona DNA but it’s working so far, at least in La Liga, and it worked against Atlético Madrid back in January.
Atlético have not lost since a defeat to Barcelona at the Civitas Metropolitano back in January, winning 10 and drawing three in that time, including six wins on the bounce. That’s the joint-best current winning run by a team in Europe’s top five leagues along with Manchester City in the Premier League. While their recent victory over Almería was far from comfortable, Atlético are winning games again.
Barcelona have drawn their last two games 0-0 against relegation-threatened Getafe and Girona. Barcelona’s defensive record in La Liga this season has been incredible but with goals drying up and Robert Lewandowski struggling, they have sometimes looked impotent in attack.
Barcelona have failed to score in any of their last three games in all competitions (44 shots in total). Only on three previous occasions have they failed to score in four successive games, most recently in April 2008 under Frank Rijkaard. If you don’t score goals then you can’t win games, and Barcelona have drawn their last two La Liga matches 0-0 – they haven’t picked up three straight draws in the competition since December 2016 (D3) and haven’t had three goalless draws in a row in the top-flight since April 1989.
While they are comfortably ahead of the chasing pack in La Liga, Xavi’s side will need to show signs of life or it will be a very uncomfortable run in and an even more worrisome summer for the manager.
Barcelona: Robert Lewandowski
After being involved in 17 goals (13 goals and four assists) in 15 games for Barcelona in La Liga in 2022, with a 23.6% shot conversion rate, Robert Lewandowski has only been involved in six goals in 10 games in 2023 (four goals and two assists) with a 9.5% shot conversion rate.
The Pole has struggled since returning from the World Cup. His two goals and an assist during a 4-0 victory against bottom side Elche are his only goal involvements since February in La Liga. On the positive side, his underlying numbers are there. His 6.24 xG since the turn of the year is fourth in La Liga behind Karim Benzema, Iago Aspas and Enes Unal and his 46 shots are third behind Benzema and Griezmann. The volume and quality of chances have been there this year, but Lewandowski has hit a rare barren patch.
The Pole is still shooting a lot but he is just not converting at the rate we have grown accustomed to and the rate Barcelona need him to. So much so that Raphinha has started to make a case for himself as Barcelona’s most dangerous attacker.
Atlético Madrid: Antoine Griezmann
Atlético de Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann has scored five goals in his last eight La Liga games, just one fewer than in his previous 36 games in the competition (six). If you are looking to lay credit for Atlético’s recent form at one player’s door then you’re looking for Griezmann’s house.
Griezmann’s history with Barcelona is well-documented. The French midfielder initially rejected them during a LeBron James-esque documentary called ‘The Decision’ but he ended up at Camp Nou anyway a year later. He never settled and moved back to Atlético at the start of last season.
It is only since club football returned after the World Cup that Griezmann has found himself again. And he might be in the form of his life.
Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid Prediction
Atlético Madrid arrive at the Camp Nou for Sunday’s game in their best form of the season. Barcelona have gone cold in front of goal and while they have the league basically wrapped up, this game could be a good barometer of where they are truly at.
The supercomputer gives them a 46.1% chance of beating Atlético at the Camp Nou. Atlético have just a 25.2% chance of travelling to Barcelona and leaving there with three points.
After back-to-back defeats at Camp Nou against Atlético de Madrid in 2005 and 2006, Barcelona have not lost any of their last 16 home games against Los Rojiblancos in the competition (W11 D5), their second-longest unbeaten run at home to them (20 in October 1963, W15 D5).