With Barcelona on the verge of disintegration both on and off the field, there perhaps couldn’t be a worse time to take on a rejuvenated Atlético Madrid in La Liga.
In Catalonia, things have not been ideal since the restart. The most recent setback? An 88th minute equaliser from Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas, which left Quique Setien’s men two points adrift Real Madrid, after they narrowly overcame Espanyol.
Meanwhile, a formerly stuttering Atlético side are back to their stodgy and stoic selves, and will go into a usually hard-fought contest knowing that a win would constitute an enormous stride towards another year of Champions League football (and a collective sigh of relief among their fans).
Can Atlético put a huge dent in Barca’s title hopes here? Will Gerard Piqué tweet another cryptic MGMT quote after this one? Let’s look ahead to a much-anticipated clash between two heavyweights of Spanish football…
When is Kick Off? Tuesday 30 June
What Time is Kick Off? 21:00 (BST)
Where is it Played? Camp Nou
TV Channel/Live Stream? LaLigaTV
Referee? Alejandro José Hernández Hernández
Sergio Busquets will return from a one-match suspension for Barcelona, but they have a number of injuries to contend with.
Ousmane Dembélé will of course be absent with the hamstring injury which he picked up in February, while Frenkie de Jong misses out with a calf problem. Sergi Roberto has, in a boost for Setien, returned to training after injuring his rib.
Arthur Melo may well have completed a transfer to Juventus by Tuesday, with a deal needing to be completed by 30 June for financial reasons.
Atlético are a little more fortunate in the injuries department. Mario Hermoso’s muscle injury will keep him out of the squad and Šime Vrsaljko is still recovering from keyhole surgery undertaken in May, but otherwise it’s a clean bill of health.
However, in terms of suspensions they will be missing both Koke and Stefan Savic.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Vidal, Busquets, Puig; Messi, Griezmann, Fati
Atlético Madrid: Oblak; Trippier, Felipe, Gimenez, Lodi; Correa, Partey, Llorente, Saul; Felix, Morata
With three wins and two draws, most team’s wouldn’t complain at Barcelona’s form after several months of ‘holiday’, but in one of La Liga’s tighter title races, it just won’t do.
Barcelona just can’t convert draws into wins away from home, and Sevilla were unlucky not to find a winner at the end of the 0-0 draw between the two teams on the 19 June. With the football far from emphatic, Setien is coming under increased pressure to find a solution.
After a lacklustre draw against Athletic Club in their first game back, it looked like a worrying season was going to get even worse for Simeone and Atlético. But since that wobble, they’ve been one of the best post-quarantine teams in Europe.
Not only have they won their last four, conceding only one goal in the process, but they actually scored five goals in one game against Osasuna! For the first time in over two years!
Celta Vigo 2-2 Barcelona (27/6)
Barcelona 1-0 Athletic Bilbao (23/6)
Sevilla 0-0 Barcelona (19/6)
Barcelona 2-0 Leganes (16/6)
Mallorca 0-4 Barcelona (13/06)
Atlético Madrid 2-1 Alaves (27/6)
Levante 0-1 Atlético Madrid (23/6)
Atlético Madrid 1-0 Real Valladolid (20/6)
Osasuna 0-5 Atlético Madrid (17/6)
Atlético Madrid 1-1 Athletic Bilbao (14/6)
Regardless of how turbulent things get, Barcelona are Barcelona – they are a) pretty impregnable at home (failing to win just once at the Camp Nou all season), and b) pretty great against Diego Simeone. We can more or less rule out a loss, at least.
But a defensively dodgy Barcelona side will struggle to stamp their authority on this match, not least because Atlético are now relatively sure of Champions League football, and can play in this high-stakes game under less pressure than the La Liga contenders.
Expect a stalemate here, and the noise surrounding Quique Setien’s future to intensify.
Prediction: Barcelona 0-0 Atlético Madrid