With Real Madrid struggling badly this season, the door is open for Barcelona to retain their league title without the attentions of their fiercest rivals. However, Los Rojiblancos will have other ideas as they seek their first La Liga triumph since the 2013/2014 campaign.
A win for either side would deliver an emphatic statement in the hunt for the title.
3. Goalkeeper and Defenders
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) – Now fully comfortable with the requirement of playing out from the back, Ter Stegen is making a growing case with each game to rival Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer as the best German goalkeeper around.
Sergi Roberto (RB) – Having been reinvented as a right-back after struggling to feature prominently in his favoured role of central midfield, Roberto will always have a place in the hearts of Barcelona supporters for his dramatic winning strike in the infamous 6-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
Gerard Pique (CB) – A stalwart from the Pep Guardiola era, Pique has been a virtual ever-present at the heart of Barcelona’s defence. Whilst centre-back partners alongside him have come and gone, the Spain international has remained unmoved.
Samuel Umtiti (CB) – A starter in France’s World Cup final victory over Croatia, Umtiti has shrugged off some of the accusations of inconsistency and recklessness to become one of the best defenders in European football.
Jordi Alba (LB) – Still one of the best attacking full-backs in the world, the Spain international has already picked up a goal and three assists in La Liga this campaign.
Sergio Busquets (CDM) – The last remaining bastion of the revered ‘Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta’ trident, the holding midfielder remains an integral part of Barcelona’s play. One of the most intelligent players around, Busquets often sets the tempo of his side’s game and will look to do so as usual against Atletico on Saturday.
Arthur (CM) – Dubbed the ‘new Xavi’, the Brazilian has earned rave reviews since his arrival from Gremio in the summer. With Ivan Rakitic set to be absent after picking up an injury whilst on international duty with Croatia, the Brazilian may take on more of the creative burden for the side.
Arturo Vidal (CM) – A shock signing from Bayern Munich, Vidal’s attributes and skills are not necessarily typical of the Barcelona stereotype. A dynamic box-to-box presence, Vidal’s all-action showings have seen him pick up two goals, two assists and two yellow cards in his first nine La Liga games for the club.
Lionel Messi (RW) – One of the absolute greatest of all time, it is hard to create more superlatives to describe the Argentine superstar. Despite fracturing his arm against Sevilla last month, Messi has made a full(ish?) recovery and will look to haunt Atletico once more.
Philippe Coutinho (LW) – Having returned to training on Tuesday, Coutinho is in line to make his return from a hamstring injury in their clash against Atletico. Whilst the mercurial talents of winger Ousmane Dembele are hard to confine to the bench, Coutinho’s willingness to dovetail with his fellow forwards have seen him often preferred in the starting lineup.
Luis Suarez (ST) – In terrific form this season, Suarez has been one of the highlights of Barcelona’s current march to the top of La Liga. With nine goals and a further four assists in just twelve league games, the Uruguay international is firing on all cylinders for his club side.