Preview: Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid Is The Game Of The Year In La Liga

Posted By Tyler Everett on May 7, 2021

We’ve finally reached the match we’ve had circled on our calendars since March: Barcelona (-129) hosts Atlético Madrid (+350) at Camp Nou on Saturday at 10:15 a.m. Eastern.

It makes sense to see Barcelona considered the clear favorite, but the line here probably shows Atleti too little respect.

While the Catalans’ price strikes me as spot-on, Atleti has a better shot than their current price would indicate. The line for Villarreal-Barcelona a couple weeks ago was Villarreal (+330)-Barcelona (-139). Though that game was at Villarreal, giving this one nearly the same odds is a slight to Los Rojiblancos.

Winner-take-all?

Technically, I should say the winner of this one will take control of the La Liga title race, not win it, as everyone still has three games left after this weekend. But “winner-take-all” sounds a hell of a lot more interesting than “winner-will-still-need-to-finish-strong,” doesn’t it?

At the moment, third-place Barcelona – Atleti leads the table with 76 points, followed by Real Madrid (74) and Barcelona (74) – is favored to win La Liga (+140). Diego Simeone’s team is second-favorite at +160, followed by RM at +250.

Whoever wins on Saturday (a draw, we should note, would boost Real Madrid’s chances tremendously and make Barcelona a loooong shot behind the Madrid rivals, who would both have 77 points) will immediately become the heavy favorite. We’ll have an update on High Press Soccer regarding both teams’ new futures odds as soon as we see prices reflecting the results of the weekend.

Can Barcelona beat a tough opponent?

Overall, the Catalans have been excellent since early January. Their record in La Liga this calendar year is a remarkable 16-1-2, to be specific. What makes me question them this weekend is what I’ve seen from them against quality opponents.

In addition to losing to Real Madrid on April 10, Barcelona also was eliminated by PSG in the Champions League round of 16. Ronald Koeman’s team not only lost to the Parisians, it looked overwhelmed — at least in leg 1.

Barcelona did handle a Villarreal club that just reached the Europa League final on April 25, but they haven’t faced a ton of elite competition in recent months. And when they have, it hasn’t been pretty.

How do Barcelona and Atlético Madrid match up?

Normally, a look back at two clubs’ previous meeting would prove useful, but Barcelona is a different team right now than the one that was shut out 1-0 by Atleti on November 21. That result, though, does emphasize how tough it will be for Barcelona to score on Jan Oblak.

My biggest question if I’m a Barcelona fan – aside from the obvious “how do you get anything past Oblak” issue — is how will a three-man back line of Clement Lenglet, Gerard Piqué and Ronald Araujo, plus wing backs Jordi Alba and USMNTer Sergiño Dest, hold up against Atleti?

While that might seem like a bizarre thing to worry about if you haven’t watched Atleti this year, anyone who’s seen Marcos Llorente and Yannick Carrasco in ’20-21 (the latter scored on Barcelona back in November) understands what a challenge Barcelona faces this weekend. And I can’t talk about the threats Barca faces without mentioning Luis Suárez, whose battles with Piqué and the rest of his old teammates will be must-see TV.

What to expect from Jordi Alba and Sergiño Dest?

Much of the Catalans’ success with three center backs has been thanks to the offensive contributions of Dest and Alba, particularly Alba.

It’s a different equation, in a bad way, for Barcelona if those two fail to contain Llorente and Carrasco. Obviously, giving up quality opportunities is one concern on this front. The other is whether Barcelona can generate enough looks of its own if its wing backs play more conservatively than usual.

Can Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann secure the W for Barcelona?

Messi alone is the biggest reason Barcelona feels like a good bet to win this thing. But expect Atleti to do everything it can to make someone besides the Argentine beat them. In many of Barcelona’s biggest games in recent years, teams that have sold out to swarm Messi have had success.

Based on his current form – four goals and an assist in his last five La Liga matches — Griezmann might just have the answer against his old team. It seems ridiculous to say that a player has “quietly” scored 12 goals and notched seven assists. That’s exactly what Griezmann has done this year, though.

Barcelona-Atlético Madrid Prediction

Despite Barcelona’s two losses in its last five, I trust the Catalans a hell of a lot more than Atleti. I’ve just seen too many shaky performances by the latter since February. Since I expect a tight match, I’ll say again that the visitors at +350 make a ton of sense.

I have one last suggestion, and I make it with all due respect for Oblak and Marc-André ter Stegen. Over 2.5 Total Goals (-121) seems like a good bet. Over 3.5 Total Goals (+210) could be another wise move, as I expect these teams to go for it. There is (I hope) way too much pressure on both managers for either to approach this one too conservatively.

WHERE TO BET BARCELONA VS ATLETICO MADRID IN THE US

In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook.

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