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La Liga Matchday 22: FC Barcelona v Atletico Madrid

LaLiga

FC Barcelona (8/15) v Atletico Madrid (6/1) – Saturday 3pm

This clash at the Camp Nou could well decide who wins the La Liga title this season. With both teams locked on 48 points at the top of the Primera Division, it is without a doubt the biggest game in Europe this weekend. Barcelona still have one game in hand, so Atletico Madrid cannot afford to lose if they want to remain in the title hunt, with city rivals Real just four points behind.

Both sides must improve on last week’s performances. Barca scraped past Malaga with a 2-1 victory away from home, but the defence looked very shaky. Malaga deserved at least a point, but Lionel Messi was the difference on the Costa del Sol. Atletico drew 0-0 at home after a spirited effort from Sevilla, but it was a stark reminder to Diego Simeone’s team that they cannot solely rely on Antoine Griezmann for goals.

Luis Enrique’s group of players have drawn comparisons with Pep Guardiola’s famous team from a few seasons ago. An unbeaten run of 25 games sees the Catalonians as considerable favourites, but they have shown some signs of fatigue whilst competing on all fronts.

Atletico’s mean backline have recorded five straight clean sheets in the league, with Diego Godin proving that he is one of the best centre-halves in world football. His battle with fellow Uruguayan Luis Suarez will be fascinating to watch. In goal, Jan Oblak has been rock solid this season, conceding just three goals away from home and eight in total.

To conquer Barcelona’s extraordinary firepower, expect to see a defensive set up from the visitors. In Friday’s training session, Simeone experimented with a 4-1-4-1 formation, so the Argentinean looks set to play with three central players in an attempt to stifle the supply lines from Barcelona’s midfield. While they may not necessarily shut out the free-scoring frontline of Messi, Suarez and Neymar, Atletico can definitely keep it close and avoid defeat here, considering they have lost just twice in 18 league matches.

*BEST BET* Atletico +1 Asian Handicap – 11/10 (2.10) with BetVictor = [REFUND, 2-1]

The Atletico +1 Asian Handicap pays above even-money if they win or draw. Should they lose by a single goal, which happened in the reverse fixture in September, then our stake will be refunded. After the disappointing Copa del Rey exit in midweek, back Simeone’s men to restore some pride with a gutsy, well-organised performance against the champions.

Considering Barcelona’s underwhelming first-half showings against Malaga and Athletic Bilbao recently, the half-time draw is another solid selection as a side bet. It may take a while for the home side to break down the opposing defence, and this bet has paid out in eight of Atletico’s last 11 matches across all competitions. It could also be worth chancing the 0-0 half-time score at 2/1.

Half-Time Draw – 13/10 (2.30) with SportingBet = LOST


Anytime Goalscorer selections

Favourite: Luis SUAREZ – 5/4 (2.25) at Betfair = WON

Underdog: Arda TURAN – 21/5 (5.2) at 888sport = LOST

Longshot: 0-0/NO GOALSCORER – 12/1 (13.0) at Skybet = LOST


  • UK television companies are not permitted to broadcast live football between the hours of 14:45 and 17:15 on a Saturday, so the only way to watch this match live is via a streaming site such as Bet365.

 

Nick Munday - @NM_sport

 

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