Barca, Atletico in epic show­down

Weekly Trust - - Shot! -

Barcelona’s 100 per­cent start to the Liga sea­son will be se­verely tested at Atletico Madrid to­day in an at­mos­phere cer­tain to be in­ten­si­fied by po­lit­i­cal fer­vour.

It will be the first time Barca have vis­ited the cap­i­tal since a dis­puted ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence in Cat­alo­nia which has stoked ten­sions with the Spanish govern­ment.

Barcelona cap­tain An­dres Ini­esta said he had been af­fected by the un­easy at­mos­phere in the coun­try and has called for a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion.

The po­lit­i­cal ten­sion has capped a dif­fi­cult start to the cam­paign for Barca off the pitch.

Barca’s board, heav­ily crit­i­cised for their lack of trans­fer ac­tiv­ity in the close-sea­son af­ter sell­ing Brazil striker Ney­mar, faced a cam­paign to force a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in them, which ul­ti­mately failed.

They have also suf­fered with in­juries and lost record sign­ing Ous­mane Dem­bele to in­jury for four months and had to make do with­out striker Luis Suarez at the start of the cam­paign.

On the pitch, how­ever, things could not have gone bet­ter as the Liga lead­ers sit five points ahead of near­est chal­lengers Sevilla fol­low­ing seven con­sec­u­tive wins.

They will face their tough­est op­po­nents since the sea­son be­gan in Atletico, who are fourth in the stand­ings, six points off Barca but also un­beaten.

Barca for­wards Suarez and Lionel Messi could be feel­ing the strain of long jour­neys back from South Amer­ica af­ter fir­ing Uruguay and Ar­gentina re­spec­tively to the 2018 World Cup.

Ini­esta, mean­while, is fight­ing to re­turn from in­jury in time.

“This is a dif­fer­ent game for many rea­sons, our play­ers have just come back from in­ter­na­tional duty, we’re fac­ing a team that de­mand 200 per­cent of you but this is a huge game and we need to en­joy it,” Ini­esta said.

Barcelona in­spi­ra­tional player, Lionel Messi in ac­tion for the Spanish gi­ants.

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