Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid, what to expect and which players make the combined XI ?

ABC of La Liga. Ever heard about them? We don’t know about C, but A and B refer to Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona. Lame Joke? While cracking funny one-liners ain’t our expertise, providing insight on the anticipated clash between the aforementioned teams is. Read on to find out what to expect on the 6th of February, and in the process, let’s also make the best combined playing 11.

FC Barcelona. Ah, what an agony! Who thought time would play such a cruel game on the Catalan giants. They haven’t looked this vulnerable since Ronaldinho’s arrival. That was to be expected as the talismanic Leo Messi held this unsteady team together for nearly 4-5 years now. His departure has just highlighted all the errors the team makes. However, repenting and regretting are two different things. Barca board repented their lack of seriousness in past years by bringing in the club legend Xavi as the new manager. With Xavi at the helm, Barcelona hasn’t exactly hit the ground running but has turned over a new leaf. They are more confident and are staying true to their style. 

On the other hand, last year’s champions, Atletiare disappointing. Their defence has faltered on numerous occasions by now, and they would hope for a change of fortunes if they wish to play UCL next season. Only one point separates both the teams as we speak. So let’s see what would be the combined 11 of both the Spanish heavyweights!

We have preferred to use a standard 4-3-3 formation with a Defensive Midfielder, which is a common formation for many teams nowadays.

Goalkeeper: Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)

A tough battle. Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Jan Oblak are two of the best goalkeepers of their generation. Both have been at their best for many years and provided countless lifelines to their respective teams. But this particular season, they have been at their worst. Oblak has surprisingly failed to contribute towards Atletico’s title defence.

26 goals conceded in 21 matches speaks it all. On top of that, just 24 saves? Oblak, get up! Ter Stegen hasn’t been impressive either, but much better than his Rojiblancos counterpart. The German has conceded 20 goals in 19 matches, making 33 saves. The only fact which helped MAtS secure his spot is his better form under Xavi. Xavi’s arrival has breathed life in Stegen, and the GK’s performing much better with every passing match, courtesy of his self-confidence being restored.

Defenders: Mario Hermoso and Geoffrey Kondobia (Atletico) and Ronald Araujo and Dani Alves (Barcelona)

Starting from the left, it was a no-brainer. Jordi Alba’s disastrous recent form and Renan Lodi’s inability to make an impact led to Hermoso being the only valid choice. Hermoso might not help out in the attack, but the Spaniard is a rock at the left flank. Hermoso’s stats aren’t that great, but his defensive work rate and reliability make him stand ahead of weak competition.

Next is Geoffrey Kondobia. Atletico’s defensive woes have been minimized due to efficient defending from Kondobia. The Central African has been adventurous winning 59% of his tackles and 100 duels alone in LaLiga.

Next on the line is Barcelona’s 22-year-old Centre-back Ronald Araujo. Touted to be legendary Carles Puyol’s heir, Araujo has shown excellent leadership skills and physical prowess this season. His return from an elbow fracture within a week shows his commitment to the game. He has also completed 90% of the 793 passes he attempted this season.

At the very right of our defence is the star right-back Dani Alves. The Brazilian is the best option Xavi has at the dead right-back position. The Good Crazy has been at his best and assisted once during his only match this season. An unpredictable asset at the right of the defence, Alves provides much-needed creativity while maintaining an impenetrable defence.

Image Credits: fcbarcelona.com

Midfielders: Nico and Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona) Rodrigo de Paul (Atletico)

Nico is a wonder-kid with a lot of potential. At 20 years old, he already has the physique and technical prowess many CM’s crave. A La Masia product, Nico is well informed of how demanding Tiki-Taka is and is the perfect heir for the Pep Guardiola from the 90’s Dream Team. He has covered nearly 11.37 km and completed 89.5% of his passes. Apart from that, he carried the balls 567 times.

On the other side, we have Rodrigo de Paul. The Argentine has been a work-horse ever since he arrived from Udinese. He has carried the ball 691 times in the opposition half. He has also given 23 key passes and covered 11.05 km till now.

At the back of this duo is Frenkie de Jong. The Dutch have recently found a good vein of form and is undoubtedly the best midfielder in this formation. His 25+ key passes and 35+ successful dribbles show his creativity. He has also completed 91% of his passes. 

Attackers: Ferran Torres (Barcelona) and Angel Correa and Yannick Carrasco (Atletico)

Barcelona’s signing of €55 million on Ferran Torres was one of the eyebrow raisers, but the 21-year-old is proving he is worth it. In the few matches he played, Ferran has provided a goal and an assist. His versatility across the attacking areas has made Xavi smile in delight. Torres can either play as a traditional or an inverted winger to accommodate any tactical plans.

On the other flank, Yannick Carrasco is a force to deal with. His 2.8 dribbles and 1.7 key passes per game, accompanied by his brilliant form, makes him an undisputed starter for our side. He has created his five chances and also converted two others into goals. 

Last but not least is our striker Angel Correa. Facing stiff competition from team-mate Luiz Suarez and Luuk de Jong, the Argentine has shined at the Striker’s role as he has scored 6 times from the 8 starts at that position. Correa has been given a go, ahead of the inconsistent Suarez and in-form Luuk. He has been at his creative best this season, completing 25+ dribbles and creating many scoring chances. The final 11 looks as follows.

The match between Barcelona and Atletico can be a surprising one, contrary to their recent forms. Barcelona’s acquisition of Adama Traore and Aubameyang has improved their finishing and chance creation. Atletico hasn’t made major moves this window, with their major signing being Daniel Wass. It would all depend on how well Atleti can handle Barca’s varied attack and if Barca can defend an unexpected counter. 

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