First meets third in La Liga on Saturday as league leaders Barcelona travel to title rivals Atletico Madrid looking to open up a four-point gap over Diego Simeone’s side.
After 12 matches of the 2017-18 La Liga season, Barcelona were four points clear at the top of the table and 10 points ahead of Atletico Madrid.
At the same stage this term, the Blaugrana are again top of the pile, but things are much tighter:
— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) November 11, 2018
Ernesto Valverde’s side visit Atleti on Saturday, and if they lose, they could end up as low as fourth by the end of the weekend.
Despite the season not having yet reached its midway point, Saturday’s clash could be crucial in the title race.
If Barca win, they will at least maintain their one-point margin at the top of the table while also extending their lead over Atleti—the most likely side to push them all the way—to four points.
Should Barca lose, Atleti will leapfrog them in the table, and Real Madrid could find themselves back in the title race if they win at Eibar.
Meanwhile, a draw, perhaps the most likely outcome given how well the two sides match, would leave things in the balance.
Atletico Madrid Team News
Godin scored a 91st-minute winner for Atletico in their 3-2 success over Bilbao before the international break, but the centre-back will miss out this weekend having suffered a thigh problem against the Basque outfit.
Head coach Simeone will be sweating over the fitness of Lucas Hernandez, Stefan Savic and Jose Gimenez, meanwhile, ahead of the match in Madrid.
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) November 21, 2018
Lucas should shake off a hamstring problem to start, while Atletico are also hopeful that Savic will be back from a calf injury, although it is thought that the pair will face late fitness tests. Gimenez, meanwhile, has suffered a series of niggles this season, but should return.
Further forward, Koke and Thomas Lemar are both doubts with muscle and hamstring injuries respectively, which could see Angel Correa, Thomas Partey, Rodri and Saul Niguez continue as the midfield four.
Costa, who has never scored against Barcelona, will be joined by Antoine Griezmann in attack. The Frenchman has also had his issues this season, however, managing just three goals in Spain’s top flight.
Atletico’s possible lineup (4-4-2)
Juanfran, Gimenez, Savic, Lucas;
Correa, Rodri, Thomas, Saul;
Barcelona Team News
As for Barcelona, Samuel Umtiti has not played in La Liga since the end of September due to a knee problem, but the Frenchman was on the bench against Betis before the international break and should return to the starting XI for this one.
Umtiti should come in for Clement Lenglet to start alongside Gerard Pique in central defence, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who has kept just two clean sheets in La Liga this season, between the sticks.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) November 22, 2018
Ivan Rakitic is unavailable for Barcelona through suspension, although he also picked up an injury during the international break. Arthur and Sergio Busquets will be two of the three in the middle of the park, and Arturo Vidal could be rewarded for his goal against Betis with a position in the first XI.
Further forward, Philippe Coutinho is back in training following a hamstring problem, and the Brazilian will face a late fitness test.
The other two positions will be occupied by Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Messi capped his return from a fractured arm with a brace against Betis last time out, and now has 14 goals in 13 games this season. Suarez, meanwhile, has managed nine strikes in 12 La Liga fixtures during the 2018-19 campaign.
Barcelona’s possible lineup (4-3-3)
Sergio Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba;
Busquets, Arthur, Vidal;
Coutinho, Suarez, Messi.
A notoriously tight fixture, Atletico and Barcelona have met 162 times in La Liga with the Catalans claiming victory in 73 of them to give them a 45% win percentage.
Not since a 2-1 success at the Vicente Calderon more than eight years ago have Atletico overcome Barcelona in the league, with the Catalan giants winning 12 of their last 16 top-flight fixtures.
Barcelona recorded a 1-0 win when the pair met at Camp Nou in March, but the points were shared in a 1-1 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano last season.
Two of the last four league meetings have actually finished level, and there was not been more than one goal between the two teams in a La Liga clash since January 2015.