Atlético Madrid (+600) at Barcelona (-200), Draw (+300)
A meeting between the two top teams in Spain’s La Liga is scheduled for this Saturday, when first-place Barcelona host second-place Atletico Madrid at the Nou Camp (10:00 AM Eastern).
Both teams are sitting on 48 points but Barcelona own the tiebreaker thanks to a better goal differential (+36 versus +22). They also have a game in hand.
The Cules have been unbeatable at home this season, posting a 10-1-0 record in 11 matches and outscoring their opponents 38-7. (The lone draw came against Deportivo La Coruña (2-2) back in December when Neymar was out of the lineup.)
Their dominance at the Camp Nou has the team sitting as heavy favorites for tomorrow’s game, but manager Luis Enrique knows Atletico will be a stiff challenge, and one that could have serious title implications months down the line.
“I’m sure that Atletico are candidates for the title,” Enrique said in a pre-game press conference. “They’ve already shown how good they are and I’m sure they’ll challenge for the league.”
Atletico Madrid have earned their 48 points by playing a markedly different brand of football than the high-scoring Catalans. The defensive-minded squad has allowed just eight goals through 21 matches, half as many as Barcelona. They’ve also posted five straight clean sheets, which has helped them go 4-1-0 in that span.
The Colchoneros aren’t just hard to score on at home, either; they lead La Liga with eight wins in 11 away games (8-1-2).
While no one in their right mind wants to face Barcelona at the Camp Nou, a change of scenery may be just what Atletico needs. They’ve lost the last three to Barca, all at Vicente Calderon Stadium in Madrid. That includes a 2-1 game in September when La Liga was just getting underway.
Atletico will undoubtedly come out motivated and with an excellent defensive game plan. But Barcelona has arguably the three best strikers in the world right now between Neymar, Lio Messi, and Luis Suarez. They’re virtually unstoppable on any field, and especially on their own.
Pick: Barcelona -200.
(Photo credit: Lluís from Sabadell (Barcelona), España (LFS_14039) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)
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