Barcelona visit hostile Madrid
BARCELONA: Barcelona’s 100% start to the Liga season will be severely tested at Atletico Madrid tomorrow 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.
As the Catalan region’s most famous export, Ernesto Valverde’s Barca side can expect an even more intimidating welcome from the Atletico fans than usual.
Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta said he had been affected by the uneasy atmosphere in the country and has called for a political solution.
Barca have lost 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 leaders sit five points ahead of nearest challengers Sevilla after seven consecutive wins. They will face their toughest opponents since the season began in unbeaten Atletico, who are fourth in the standings, six points off Barca.
Barca forwards Suarez and Lionel Messi could be feeling the strain of long journeys to the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. Iniesta, meanwhile, is fighting to return from injury in time.
Champions Real Madrid, who visit neighbours Getafe tomorrow, are fifth, seven points behind their fierce rivals Barca.
Goalkeeper Keylor Navas joined an absentee list that also includes Gareth Bale and Dani Carvajal. Sevilla visit Athletic Bilbao. – Reuters