FC Barcelona hosts Atletico Madrid on Sunday in what could be the most decisive game of the weekend and quite possibly one of the most important matches of the season.
Both sides enter the game after midweek Champions League wins, which secured their places in the last-16 of the competition. Atletico won 3-1 away to Feyenoord, while Barca secured a 2-1 victory at home against Porto.
Barca’s win is seen by some as a return to form for Xavi Hernandez’s side, but while Frenkie de Jong’s return to fitness has undoubtedly bolstered Barca, Porto created enough chances to have potentially altered the game’s outcome, and the jury is still out.
Atletico’s visit to the Olympic Stadium in Montjuic will be a real test of whether Barca’s recovery is genuine and will also indicate whether their hopes of defending the La Liga title are realistic.
The game will further assess Atletico’s title credentials, with many regarding them as ‘dark horses’ in the title race. They sit third in the table, four points behind Girona and Real Madrid, but with a game in hand.
Like all good dramas, the match also features a couple of secondary plots, with Antoine Griezmann set to again face Barcelona, where he previously struggled to produce the form he is now consistently delivering.
Meanwhile, Joao Felix is expected to start for Barca against the team that has loaned him out.
The Portuguese star has occasionally appeared to be the creative player Barca needs and has expressed his desire to stay at Barcelona after the season. Diego Simeone, on the other hand, will be eager to ensure Joao isn’t at his best on Sunday after the relationship between the player and Atletico coach appeared strained in previous years.
A win for Barcelona would affirm their resurgence after some poor displays, but if Atletico can take all three points, not only would it plunge Barca back into uncertainty, but Atletico could then start to be viewed as title contenders.