Catalans Closing In On Livin’ La Liga LocaStats
Atletico Madrid v Barcelona
Barcelona are on the brink of another Spanish title with one more win assuring them of La Liga glory but can current champions Atletico Madrid throw a spanner in the works?
Atletico Madrid’s run of only three wins in their last seven, including successive draws, has seen fourth-placed Valencia make up ground to such an extent that Los Che could still overtake Diego Simeone’s side in third. It would also mean that they take the automatic group place in next season’s Champions League.
With a four-point cushion that’s still unlikely but Atleti still need three points from their final two matches to guarantee a third-placed finish. Their loss in the Champions League quarter-final to city rivals Real is the only one they’ve suffered over the last 15 games, however, and kept clean sheets in three of their last four.
French forward Antoine Griezmann has enjoyed a terrific first season in the Spanish capital with his 22 league goals only bettered by serial record-breakers Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Despite surrendering an 18-match unbeaten run with a 3-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final clash in midweek, Barcelona still progressed to the final easily after a 5-3 aggregate win which keeps them on course for the treble. Three more points will assure Luis Enrique finishes the season with a bare minimum of the league title too after they extended their gap at the top of the table last weekend to four points with a 2-0 win over Real Sociedad allied to Real’s 2-2 draw with Valencia.
Barca had kept seven clean sheets in a row prior to the clash with Bayern, have conceded fewer goals on the road then any other side in the Spanish top flight and scored at least twice in each of their last 11 games – and 36 overall during that run.
Messi trails Ronaldo by two in the race to be this season’s Pichichi in Spain, but has still scored 53 times overall and seven in his last six despite drawing blanks in his last two.
Simeone is expected to have a fully fit squad to choose from with no new injuries reported with Fernando Torres pushing for a starting spot after scoring from the bench against Levante last week.
Barca are set to be without Luis Suarez for the game after the Uruguayan suffered a hamstring injury against Bayern but the extent of his absence has yet to be clarified. Defender Jeremy Mathieu is the only other injury concern for Enrique’s side.
After failing to win any of the six clashes between the sides last season, Barcelona have since won all three of their meetings with Atleti this term,
…most recently with a 3-2 victory in the Copa del Rey clash at the Vicente Calderon in January which saw the Catalans win 4-2 on aggregate.
Atletico are no pushovers but with a team of Barcelona’s class on this sort of run it’s something of a no-brainer to back the away win here at 8/11.
At 23/20 to score anytime with a streak which has seen him find the net in each of his last seven, and three against Simeone’s side already this season, Neymar has to be taken on while the 4/1 on the Brazilian to score first looks a good gamble too.
*Prices correct at time of publication