With both teams out of the Copa del Rey and Europe, all Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have left to focus on is the stretch run of this La Liga season. Barça will look to see their title push through to the end, while Atleti seek to solidify their place in next year’s UCL. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks for this major Spanish clash.
Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid Odds
At home, the league leaders Barça are -105 favorites to win, with the draw set at +240 and +330 for Atleti. For a goalscoring line of 2.5, the over is +120, while the under is favored at -145.
Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid Prediction & Pick
Picks: Draw (+235), u2.5 goals (-145)
While this game doesn’t have enormous immediate stakes, all points are important until table positions are finalized. And regardless, with no other competitions left to play, both of these teams should be fully focused on Sunday’s matchup. After all, these are professional athletes, competitors that will want to win regardless.
This might particularly be the case for Atleti, who have recently shown a strong desire to win by way of a great run of form. They’ve won their past 6 La Liga matches, and haven’t lost in their past 13 (with only 3 draws mixed in). Their last league loss, however, was to Barça at the Metropolitano, so there will be a revenge aspect to this matchup after dropping points on their own turf.
One accomplishment that is still on the table for Barça is the La Liga defensive record. The fewest goals allowed in the current, 38 game format is 18, which is jointly held by Deportivo La Coruña and none other than Atletico Madrid, while the overall record is 15 goals, held by the 1932 Real Madrid squad who only had to play 18 games.
Still, even with the enormous handicap of playing 20 more games than that Madrid team, Barça have a realistic shot at both records. With 9 games left to play, they’ve allowed 9 goals, four of which were against Real Madrid, who they don’t have to face again. They’ve given up around .32 goals per game thus far, and the paces they’d need to crack the all-time and 38-game record are .56 and .89, according to FB Reference, so suffice it to say that they have a great shot at history.
With that in mind, and Atleti being who they generally are, I’m sticking with the chalk and picking the under for the goalscoring total of 2.5. As for the result, in a game that should be measured and cagey, without enormous stakes, I’m taking the draw. I don’t think it’s worth picking Atletico outright on the road, but Barça, who have drawn their past two La Liga matches, are far from a lock to win, and the value of the draw end of the moneyline is too good to pass up.
With both of these defensive-minded sides, the biggest goal for the opposition is going to be breaking down that excellent back line. Let’s take a look at how each side might approach that key positional battle.
Atletico Attack vs. Barça Defense
Atleti’s two goalscoring engines have been Antoine Griezmann and Álvaro Morata, both of whom have racked up 12 goals in all competitions, none of which have come through penalty kicks (each player has taken and missed one). In the league, Griezmann slightly edges Morata with 11 goals, and also leads the team with 8 assists; the versatile French attacking midfielder is back to his best, and has undoubtedly been the star of the team this season.
It’s worth noting that while Barça are stuck in a mini draw streak, they still haven’t allowed goals; they’ve been 0-0 contests. In their 6 most recent La Liga matches, they’ve only allowed one goal, in a win against Real Madrid.
Goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen has put together an outstanding season domestically, perhaps his best with the legendary Catalan club. Centre/Right-back Jules Koundé has also really broken out, providing a real anchor for the historic defense in front of Ter Stegen. Ronald Araujo has also mixed in between the middle and fullback, and has acquitted himself well in both spots.
With Sergi Roberto hurt, the fullbacks will most likely be talented youngster Alejandro Balde on the left, with the possibility of veteran Jordi Alba, with Koundé or Araujo sliding to the right and Eric Garia taking over in the middle.
Barça Attack vs. Atletico Defense
Robert Lewandowski, while not particularly on fire right now outside of a brace against Elche a couple weeks ago, is having an excellent debut season in Spain. He’s not quite up to his Bayern standard, but he’s racked up 27 goals in all competitions, 17 of which have come in La Liga. He’s the clear focal point of this attack; Pedri is the second-highest scorer with 6 goals in La Liga, while Raphina’s 9 in all comps is just behind Lewandowski on that team list.
Speaking of Raphina, the adjustment to La Liga has been a good deal rougher for him. He has scored just twice in his past 10 matches in all competitions, albeit both were important strikes in 1-0 victories. Concerningly for a winger playing alongside a teammate such as Lewandowski, he has picked up zero assists across all of those matches, so we’ll see how their dynamic plays out against Atleti this weekend.
This defense isn’t the best fielded by a Simeone Atleti side, but there’s still definitely strong players. The rock, of course, is Jan Oblak, the legendary Slovenian goalkeeper who hasn’t been quite at his best, but is still a formidable figure in the net.
Unshockingly, the four best players behind Griezmann in Atleti’s FotMob rankings are all defenders. At the top of the list has been Uruguayan centre-back José Giménez, closely followed by fullback Reinildo, who is currency injured. Giménez’s centre-back partner is likely to be team mainstay Mario Hermoso, while World Champion Nahuel Molina rounds out the core of the defense on the right side.