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La Liga returns after the recent international break with a heavyweight contest that pits the reigning league champions, FC Barcelona, against the champions from two seasons ago, Atlético Madrid, the first of seven games in 22 days for the blaugranes. The two sides have met in the league, the Champions League, the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup in recent years and on Saturday at 8.30pm CET in the Vicente Calderón they come face to face in just the third week of the 2015/16 campaign. Both sides have 100% per cent records so far and Luis Enrique’s side will be looking to extend that record to end Atlético’s perfect start.
Barça trained at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper on Friday for the final time before the game. Leo Messi missed the session for personal reasons but was named in an 18 man squad announced by coach Luis Enrique. The good news is the return of Adriano after injury and the Brazilian was named in the travelling party, which is as follows: Ter Stegen, Masip, Rakitic, Sergio, Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar, Rafinha, Mascherano, Bartra, Munir, Jordi Alba, Sandro, Sergi Roberto, Adriano, Vermaelen and Mathieu. Missing are goalkeeper Claudio Bravo who has a calf strain, the suspended Gerard Piqué and the injured Brazilian defenders Douglas and Dani Alves.
Atlético coach Diego Pablo Simeone also named his squad after their final training session on Friday. Like his counterpart Luis Enrique, the Argentinian’s preparations this week have been hampered by the absence of players on international duty. However, he has no injury worries and so Atlético should be at full strength for the game on Saturday.
Luis Enrique faced the press as usual the day before the game. The Asturian was quick to dismiss the recent international break as an excuse for any possible slip up. "I expect a tough game regardless” he said. “The visit [to Madrid] in itself presents certain difficulties. If we don't play well, Atlético will hurt us. The international hiatus is not an excuse, neither for us nor for our rivals." Commenting on the new look Atlético, he added that "they re-armed themselves very, very well this summer."
Simeone also appeared before the press on Friday, saying that “we haven’t come across the right formula to beat Barça, but we have competed. Without a doubt, as in the last few games against them, we will be pegged back in our own half waiting for the chance to counterattack.”
Barça have not lost away from home in the league since a 1-0 reverse in Anoeta against Real Sociedad back in January, and have won ten of their last eleven games on the road. They have won both their league games so far this season, away at Athletic and home to Málaga, taking their unbeaten run in La Liga to 16 matches. Atlético, for their part, have won both their games too, overcoming Las Palmas at home and following that up with an impressive away win at Sevilla. Diego Simeone’s side have only lost two of their last 38 league games at the Calderón, the last coming when Leo Messi’s goal handed Barça the title in the penultimate match of last season's campaign.
The blaugranes have won 22 out of a total of 78 games away to Atlético in the league. Barça have won on three of the last four visits and have not lost in Manzanares since the 2009/10 season. Luis Enrique’s side won twice last season at Atlético: a 3-2 win the Copa del Rey gave them a 4-2 win on aggregate and a 1-0 win in May handed them the league title.
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