WHEN Barcelona and Atletico Madrid meet in Spain it’s always a battle, so expect a classic when they face off on Saturday.
Atleti haven’t played at the Wanda Metropolitano since Chelsea inflicted their first defeat at their new home and they will be keen to make sure they don’t lose two in a row.
It won’t be easy though – despite the chaotic summer off the pitch, under new coach Ernesto Valverde Barcelona have started the 2017/18 La Liga season on fire, winning their opening seven games.
Atletico Madrid are also unbeaten though, having won four and drawn three of their first seven matches.
Kick off in Madrid is at 7.45pm on Saturday and it will be shown live in the United Kingdom on Sky Sports.
Our friends at Football Whispers have looked at where the match may be won and lost.
Key battle – Messi vs Atletico Madrid back line
Lionel Messi is unstoppable when he’s at his best.
He pretty much dragged Argentina single-handedly to the World Cup this week, with his hat-trick in their 3-1 win in Ecuador being crucial as they qualified for Russia 2018.
And he’s already on fire for Barcelona this season, leading the race for the Pichichi award, given to the top scorer in Spain’s top-flight, with 11 goals this season.
The Argentine is averaging a goal every 57 minutes in the league.
His closest challenger this season is former West Ham flop Simone Zaza, who has six for Valencia.
But Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone are the hardest team in Spain to score against.
Since then, in every full season he’s had at the club, Atleti have finished the campaign as the team that has conceded the fewest goals in La Liga.
They let in 31 league goals in 2012/13, 26 when they won the league in 2013/14, 29 in 2014/15, 18 in 2015/16 and 27 in 2016/17.
In fact, since Jan Oblak arrived at Atleti, in his 86 games at the club, he’s kept 50 clean sheets.
Amazingly, he’s kept more clean sheets than goals conceded (49).
With Neymar’s replacement Ousmane Dembele injured, it’s fallen down to Messi and Luis Suarez to lead the line and be Barcelona’s biggest threat.
They will cause any defence numerous problems, and if the Atleti defence focus on one of them too much, they’re at real risk of leaving the other free and that is likely to have consequences.
Yet, they’re not the only goal threats in the Barcelona side – Denis Suarez already has two in the league this season, and if it’s a tight game, it could be decided by a set piece, and Gerard Pique is always a threat from corners.
Atletico Madrid’s main man is undoubtedly Antoine Griezmann.
He would have probably left Atleti this season if they didn’t have a transfer ban, but they will be pleased they kept him around, with the Frenchman proving himself as one of the world’s best attacking talents.
If they keep hold of him in January, a front line of him and Diego Costa will really scare defences across Europe.
Since Simeone has been at Atletico Madrid as manager, he’s set them up in a 4-4-2 and that won’t change against Barcelona.
They will go for it for 90 minutes, be hard to break down and never stop running – their intensity is second to none.
Barcelona have played a 4-3-3 for the majority of the last decade but Valverde is changing that this season.
After Neymar’s departure and Dembele’s injury, he’s switched to a 4-4-2 with Suarez and Messi up front and it’s been hugely successful.
It also gets the best out of Sergi Roberto and Aleix Vidal on the right, who combined beautifully time and time again against Las Palmas in their last La Liga game.
How the teams are likely to be set up
Atletico Madrid have no real injury concerns ahead of the game.
Filipe Luis is likely to play after recovering from a muscle injury, while Lucas Hernandez also returns to the squad following a hamstring injury.
Augusto Fernandez is still out, while Luciano Vietto hasn’t been named in Simeone’s squad for the match.
Atletico Madrid (4-4-2): Oblak; Juanfran, Savic, Godin, Luis; Koke, Partey, Gabi, Saul; Carrasco, Griezmann.
Barcelona are without Rafinha and Dembele, while Arda Turan also won’t be involved.
Andres Iniesta is unlikely to play 90 minutes after missing Spain’s recent World Cup qualifiers.
He came on as a substitute against Las Palmas but was hauled off before full-time due to injury.
Barcelona (4-4-2): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Vidal, Busquets, Rakitic, D Suarez; Messi, L Suarez.
Key stats heading into the game
Napoli and Barcelona are the only teams with a 100 per cent start to the season in Europe’s top five leagues this term.
Barcelona have won all seven games in La Liga 2017/18, equalling their best ever start in the competition (seven in 2013/14).
Messi has had more shots on target (25) than any other player in the top five European leagues this season.
He has scored 11 goals in La Liga this season, that’s his best ever start after the first seven league games.