The Spanish, La Liga, season is coming to an end and, for the first time since 1951, the champion will be decided on the final day. Barcelona take on Atletico Madrid in a winner takes all contest this Saturday, May 17 at 12:00 ET. Read on for my prediction and preview for Barcelona v Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have dominated La Liga for the better part of the last decade. It has been a foregone conclusion that one of these two “duopolies” would win the title with 2003-04 being the last time one of these two has not won, thanks to Valencia. This is why the growth and success of Atletico Madrid has been such a breath of fresh air this season.
Atletico Madrid go into Saturday’s meeting knowing they only need a draw and their first Spanish title since 1995-96 will be theirs. It would also become their tenth title since they first won the league back in 1939-40.
At the moment they sit at the top of the table with 89 points compared to Barcelona’s 86. While a Barcelona win would put them level on points, the Catalans would be crowned champions thanks to a better head to head record this season having drawn their previous meeting 0 – 0.
This contest is as balanced as finely as the table shows. A. Madrid had the chance to seal the title in their last two matches, if only they had been able to muster a win. While Barcelona lost, then drew in their last two matches, Madrid’s back to back draws meant that the final match became the all-important title decider.
In their last six meetings over all competitions there have been four draws and each team has a win. Atletico Madrid’s recent 1-0 Champions League win is their most recent meeting. However, this is balanced by the fact that Barcelona has not lost to Atletico Madrid in their last ten home matches in all competitions.
How Will This Go Down?
Barcelona continues to play a high pressing, possession based game using passing and movement to look for an opening and break down their opponent. This is opposed by Madrid’s ability to adapt tactically and play a high temp, quick paced, counter attacking game. This should make for a fantastic match to watch, but also one I which the team making the most errors will end up losing.
In recent matches Barcelona has kept high possession rates, but has struggled to create clear goal scoring chances, or capitalize on those they did create. With this in mind, Atletico Madrid need only to weather the storm and find their moment to break and push for a goal.
I believe this match is set up well for second half goals, especially if either team need to push for a goal. If Barcelona need to get a goal it could really open the game up to an Atletico Madrid counter.
This is one of those matches that can be analyzed and re-analyzed, but it’s really going to come down to which team’s tactics come off, who makes the fewest mistakes, and who wants it more.
Barcelona will be without goalkeeper Victor Valdes, defenders Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol and forward Neymar. Atletico Madrid has just Diego Costa listed as questionable, but he should be included in the squad, and most likely starting.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Pinto; Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Sanchez, Messi, Pedro
Atletico Madrid (4-4-2): Courtois; Luis, Godin, Miranda, Juanfran; Turan, Gabi, Tiago, Koke; Villa, Costa
Barcelona 1 – 1 Atletico Madrid
Betting Odds (Bovada)
Barcelona win: 1.80; Draw: 3.75; Atletico Madrid win: 4.00