Barcelona face their biggest game of the season when they welcome a tenacious Atletico Madrid to the Nou Camp on Sunday afternoon. Bet on it at BMR’s green-listed bookmakers.
Diego Simeone’s men are in superb form and have won seven games in a row after bringing Diego Costa back to Wanda Metropolitano and partnering him with Antoine Griezmann up front. They have refused to accept defeat in the title race, and Atletico are now just four points behind Barca at the top of the table. This is therefore an enormous six-pointer that will have huge ramifications in the race to be crowned champions of Spain.
It is remarkable to think that Barcelona, who remain unbeaten in the league after 26 games, have not sewn up the title yet. That is down to the doggedness of Atletico Madrid, who have the best defensive record of any team in Europe’s top five leagues this season. Simeone’s team are 10 points clear of their more vaunted city rivals Real Madrid, and they have only lost once all season. They are also in far better form than Barcelona.
Ernesto Valverde’s men slumped to a shock draw away at Las Palmas on Thursday night, their third draw in five games. During the past month, Atletico have cut the gap at the top of the table from 10 points to just four. Before Christmas, the title race looked dead and buried, but we now have a proper two-horse race on our hands. The odds on Barcelona winning the title have gone out from 1/100 at the start of the year to 4/7 with Paddy Power Meanwhile, the odds on Atletico lifting the trophy have plummeted.
Simeone deserves a tremendous amount of credit for continuing to keep Atletico Madrid competitive despite operating on a shoestring budget compared to Barcelona and Real Madrid. They defend extremely well, pressing the opposition all over the pitch and displaying supreme levels of organisation and tactical discipline. They have conceded just 11 goals in 26 games this season, and that is astonishing. Meanwhile, Barcelona have conceded only 13 goals, so that would normally point to a low-scoring encounter.
However, Atletico have really discovered their goal scoring boots in recent weeks. They put four past Leganes in their last game, and they scored five against Sevilla in the previous match. That becomes even more impressive when you consider that Sevilla had just held Man Utd to a 0-0 draw in the Champions League. Griezmann has now scored eight goals in his last two games, and it is no wonder Barcelona are desperate to activate his €100 million release clause in the summer. Atletico have not failed to score in a game since a 0-0 draw with Real Madrid on November 18.
Barcelona have only failed to score in one league game this season, and a strike partnership of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez always looks like yielding plenty of goals. Both of these teams are good going forwards right now that both teams to score looks a good bet in this game at 4/5 with William Hill and 10Bet.
Both teams have scored in the last five meetings between these teams, and Sunday’s clash looks like a 1-1 or 2-1 type of game. Barcelona are the odds-on favourites and they benefit from home advantage, but they will be tired after their trip to the Canary Islands to draw with Las Palmas on Thursday. Atletico have had longer to rest and will be more confident after their recent run of brilliant form, so that could even things out a bit, and a draw looks attractive at 3/1 with Betfred and Betway.