Five duels to follow in Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona

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Atletico Madrid and Barcelona face off in a LaLiga Santander match last season. (PHOTO: LaLiga)
Atletico Madrid and Barcelona face off in a LaLiga Santander match last season. (PHOTO: LaLiga)

There is a blockbuster fixture in LaLiga Santander this weekend as Atletico Madrid take on Barcelona, a match that should produce some thrilling football as two strong teams do battle and as some of the best individuals in their positions go face to face. 

There are several interesting duels worth keeping an eye on:

The goalkeepers: Jan Oblak vs Marc-André ter Stegen

Atletico and Barcelona boast two of the best goalkeepers in world football in Jan Oblak and Marc-André ter Stegen. The latter hasn’t yet been able to win the Zamora Trophy, given out each season to the goalkeeper with the best goals conceded record in LaLiga Santander, and there’s one main reason for that, which is that Oblak has been in the way. 

The Slovenian has claimed this prize five times, most recently in 2020/21 as he helped Atletico win the title. This season, Oblak also leads the Zamora Trophy standings after the first few matchdays, having let in just six goals across seven matches so far. 

Ter Stegen, meanwhile, has only just returned from an injury, having required surgery on his right knee at the end of May and having missed the start of the season, only returning at the end of August. Yet, it hasn’t taken long for the German to once again show why he is one of the best around. From his four league appearances so far this campaign, Ter Stegen has managed to keep two clean sheets already. 

The defence: José María Giménez vs Gerard Piqué

In defence, Atletico and Barcelona can sometimes be like day and night. On one hand, the Colchoneros have produced one of the most solid defensive lines in LaLiga Santander over the past several years, while Barcelona have a philosophy of attacking no matter what and leaving some space behind. 

Two of the players leading those back lines are José María Giménez and Gerard Piqué. With Giménez, he is one of the best centre-backs in the competition. There may be others who score more goals, who play with a more elegant style or who can bring the ball out better, as may be the case with the Catalan, but few are as rock solid as the Uruguayan. 

The midfield: Koke and Marcos Llorente vs Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets

The midfield battle could be more decisive than ever and Barcelona will have to be careful. Despite Barça’s tradition of dominating in the middle, this is also one of Atletico's best positions as they have Koke and Marcos Llorente who can control matches. They complement each other perfectly, combining control with physicality and energy. 

Barcelona have a similarly strong duo in the form of Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets, with the Dutchman one of the most talented modern stars of the competition and with the Spain international one of the most experienced. This clash in the centre promises to be a special one. 

The attack: Luis Suárez vs Memphis Depay

Luis Suárez was one of Atlético’s best players as they won the LaLiga Santander title last season, his first as a Rojiblanco after having moved from Barcelona. 

He quickly scored a brace in 20 minutes on his Atletico debut and finished the season by scoring two of the vital four goals over the final two matchdays, for the victories that delivered the championship. The Uruguayan meant business from the start and remains a permanent threat in attack. 

In this weekend’s match, Suárez and co. will be looking to outscore the Barça attack centred around the talents of summer signing Memphis Depay. Already, the Dutch forward has been one of the stars of the 2021/22 LaLiga Santander season as he has scored three goals and provided one assist over his first six appearances. More than the numbers, he has carried the attacking responsibility on his shoulders. 

The dugout: Diego Simeone vs Ronald Koeman

Diego Simeone is the LaLiga Santander coach who has been in his current position the longest and he’ll go up against one of the more recent hires in Spain’s top flight, Ronald Koeman. These two tacticians represent the values of their clubs so well, although there might not be as much of a clash of styles as in previous meetings between these sides. 

Above all, Simeone demands intensity and balance from his squad, which is now so deep in the forward positions with João Félix, Antoine Griezmann, Ángel Correa, Luis Suárez, Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Lemar and Matheus Cunha. 

Barcelona have always been known for playing attacking football, while they are also looking for intensity and balance under Koeman, who is backing La Masia talent like few before him. 

These coaches know what it means to win, having taken the LaLiga Santander and Copa del Rey titles respectively last season. They’ll be out to collect another victory at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano this weekend. 

Don’t miss Atlético Madrid vs Barcelona live this Saturday at your local broadcasters.

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