Atletico Madrid - Barcelona Preview: Lionel Messi seeks third hat-trick in a row against Diego Simeone's side
The Argentine forward has astonishing recent history with the capital club and hopes to extend it as Pep Guardiola's side aim to keep title hopes alive at the Vicente Calderon
By Martin Macdonald
Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Filipe
Arda, Adrian, Koke
Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal
Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
Messi, Fabregas, Sanchez
Diego Simeone will be without the services of Brazilian playmaker Diego, who has been ruled out for a month. However, Arda Turan returned from injury to feature from the bench in the Europa League victory over Lazio on Thursday.
Radamel Falcao was rested from the starting XI in midweek but the prolific Colombian will return to starting line-up for the game against Barca.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola's only two injuries to deal with are long-term absentees Ibrahim Afellay and David Villa, who are both still unavailable but are beginning to work out in the gym as they attempt to recuperate.
The Catalan side were outstanding in their last match against Valencia, so it is unlikely that much tinkering will be made. However, Xavi is fully fit again and Dani Alves returns from his suspension, so expect the duo to return to the starting XI.
||DID YOU KNOW?|
- Atletico are unbeaten in their last seven matches in La Liga (3-4-0), keeping a clean sheet in six of those fixtures.
- Radamel Falcao has scored 19 goals in 29 appearances for Atlético in all competitions this season, which includes two hat-tricks in La Liga.
- Atletico have kept 11 clean sheets this season - only Barcelona have more with 12.
- The last time that Barcelona lost back-to-back away matches in La Liga was in April-May 2008, 2-0 at Deportivo La Coruna and 4-1 at Real Madrid.
- Lionel Messi has scored 14 league goals against Atletico, including two hat-tricks in his last two encounters with Los Rojiblancos.
- Barça have lost only one of the 94 league matches in which Messi has scored (85-8-1) - which was against Atletico Madrid (4-3) on March 1 2009.
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Top 3 Predictions
Atletico Madrid 1-3 FC Barcelona
- 19.71 %
Atletico Madrid 2-1 FC Barcelona
- 12.15 %
Atletico Madrid 0-3 FC Barcelona
- 10.22 %
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Jan 11, 2014||Atletico Madrid 0 - FC Barcelona 0|
|Spain - Super Cup (ESPS)||Aug 28, 2013||FC Barcelona 0 - Atletico Madrid 0|
|Spain - Super Cup (ESPS)||Aug 21, 2013||Atletico Madrid 1 - FC Barcelona 1|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||May 12, 2013||Atletico Madrid 1 - FC Barcelona 2|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Dec 16, 2012||FC Barcelona 4 - Atletico Madrid 1|
|Mar 8, 2014||Celta 0 - Atletico Madrid 2||LIGA|
|Mar 2, 2014||Atletico Madrid 2 - Real Madrid CF 2||LIGA|
|Feb 23, 2014||Osasuna 3 - Atletico Madrid 0||LIGA|
|Feb 19, 2014||AC Milan 0 - Atletico Madrid 1||UCL|
|Feb 15, 2014||Atletico Madrid 3 - Valladolid 0||LIGA|
|8||Andrés Iniesta Luján||Midfielder|
|13||José Pinto Colorado||Goalkeeper|
The Colombian was given a rest from the starting XI in midweek so he will be fresh for the tough test against Barca. Expect him to use his physical attributes to cause some hustle and bustle in the penalty area. A real danger for Guardiola's side.
Lionel Messi showed last weekend why he is the Ballon d'Or holder. A fantastic four-goal tally against Valencia capped a performance of the very highest order. If he is in this type of form in this match, then Atletico must be afraid.
This game has the potential to be a very tight affair. Atletico have been watertight at the back since Diego Simeone's appointment but they have not yet faced a side with the attacking quality of Barca. The Catalan side were impeccable against Valencia, scoring an impressive five goals against Unai Emery's outfit, but their away form has been poor this season. Barcelona may just sneak a narrow win at the Vicente Calderon.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed