Griezmann and Atlético put the leader to the test
Barça, without Lewandowski, seeks to defend first position in a stadium where they have fallen on their last two visits
MADRID, 7 Jan. (.) –
FC Barcelona, without its scorer Robert Lewandowski, is looking for a victory this Sunday in an always complicated place like Cívitas Metropolitano (9:00 p.m. / DAZN) that will allow it to remain in the lead of LaLiga Santander, all against an Atlético de Madrid, led For ex-azulgrana Antoine Griezmann, who needs to hit the table if he wants to aspire to something serious this season.
The draw in the last match of 2022 against RCD Espanyol (1-1), in which Joselu neutralized Marcos Alonso’s early goal, interrupted a run of five consecutive league victories for Xavi Hernández’s men and left two crucial casualties: Jordi Alba and, above all, Robert Lewandowski.
The Polish striker has been the blaugrana’s lifeline this season in the domestic competition, where his 13 goals in 15 games, which place him as top scorer in the category, have allowed them to rise to the top of the table, which at the beginning of the day they shared with Real Madrid (38 points).
However, the Administrative Court of Sport (TAD) confirmed this week the three-game sanction that the Competition Committee imposed on the attacker for interpreting inconsideration in a gesture that he addressed to the referee Jesús Gil Manzano from Extremadura after his expulsion against Osasuna and not may be in Madrid.
Without one of his regulars -who only did not start in a league match this season- and after the scare in the Cup round of 32 against Intercity -where he needed extra time (3-4)-, Xavi could bet on putting together a trident with the French Ousmane Dembélé, Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres, although Memphis Depay could also have his options.
In defense, where Alejandro Balde will take the place left by Jordi Alba, the Uruguayan Ronald Araujo could have a place after the minutes played against Intercity, while Pedri, who rested in the Copa del Rey, will return to a midfield that he will share with Frenkie de Jong and Gavi.
“LaLiga will not decide anything, but it would be a blow on the table to win in the Metropolitan. It is a complicated field, a difficult opponent, they are a rock defensively. It will be difficult for us to generate things and we have to be more effective than in the last two games. It is a very important party, but not transcendental for the future of LaLiga”, explained the preparador culé.
Opposite, Atlético de Madrid needs to win again to harbor hopes of dreaming of something important this campaign. With 27 units, he is fourth, 11 behind his rival this Sunday, to which he managed to cut some ground in his farewell last year after beating Elche at home (2-0) after three games without victory.
“Negative results bring negative energy and positive ones help the team feel more self-confident. Tomorrow we will continue in this line and try to take the game to where we believe we can do damage”, declared Diego Pablo Simeone in the round press.
Those of ‘Cholo’ hold on to their last two victories in their fiefdom against the Catalans -2-0 in October 2021 and 1-0 in November 2020- and, also, to the stupendous moment in form of an old acquaintance of the Culé fans: Antoine Griezmann.
The French striker did not connect with Barcelona, but on his return to the mattress club he has recovered his best virtues to become its third all-time top scorer, with 147 goals in 316 games with the rojiblanca shirt. The change of leader on this day could happen through his boots.
The participation of the Portuguese Joao Félix, who is linked by a turbulent relationship with the Argentine coach -who condemned him to substitution in 10 of the 12 games prior to the World Cup in Qatar-, does not seem to be in dispute either, all with a market already open in the one who could set course for another club at any time. Everything seems to indicate that he will start with the ‘Little Prince’.
ATHLETIC MADRID: Oblak; Molina, Savic, Gimenez, Reinildo, Carrasco; Kondogbia, Barrios, Llorente; Griezmann and Joao Felix.
FC BARCELONA: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Koundé, Christensen, Balde; De Jong, Pedri, Gavi; Dembele, Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres.
–REFEREE: Munuera Montero (C.Andaluz).
–STADIUM: Cívitas Metropolitano.