With the threat of a La Liga strike over the new TV rights deal now averted, Barcelona will travel to the Vicente Calderon Sunday to face reigning champions Atletico Madrid as planned. A win at the Calderon will see Barça crowned Spanish champions and keep Luis Enrique’s team in line for what could be a historic treble.
Despite Atleti’s home field advantage, Barcelona are seen as favorites Sunday. Although their 18-match winning streak was snapped by Bayern Munich on Wednesday, Barcelona are into the Champions League final against Juventus next month and will also face Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final this month. A win Sunday would see the Catalans claim the first of the three major trophies available to them and be a huge step towards claiming the club’s first treble since 2009.
Barcelona may have to make do without striker Luis Suarez against Atletico, however; the Uruguayan picked up a hamstring strain against Bayern and has been undergoing physiotherapy. It’s unknown if he’ll be recovered in time and Enrique may decide to start Pedro alongside Neymar and Lionel Messi, rather than risk Suarez, who’ll be needed in the upcoming clashes against Juventus and Bilbao. Barça defender Dani Alves also picked up a strain against Bayern. But despite training away from the rest of the team this week, the Brazilian should be fit for Sunday’s encounter.
A win may not even be necessary for Barça to clinch the title, depending on how Real Madrid fair against Espanyol. But Enrique has stated he doesn’t wish to gamble on other teams’ results. And if Barça can clinch the title this weekend it will take the pressure off leading up to the Copa del Rey final on May 30. Enrique is thus expected to field the strongest available team against Atleti. With the possible exception of Suarez, it should be the same Barça starting 11 that faced Bayern.
Barcelona face a difficult task in going to the Calderon to meet an Atleti side that’s prepared for them by spending extra time studying videos of the league leaders. While the possibility of retaining the La Liga title has long slipped away from Diego Simeone’s team, Atleti’s sole remaining objective this season is Champions League qualification. A win Sunday would see them seal third place and automatic qualification for the competition next season.
With the two teams having met three times this season, and Barcelona coming out on top on each occasion, Atleti are still looking for their first win against Barça in 2014-15. Atleti will also be highly motivated not to lose their final home fixture of the season, and perhaps more importantly, not to allow Barcelona to be crowned champions in their stadium. Simeone, who will have his whole squad available, with the exception of the banned Tiago, is also expected to field his strongest possible team.