Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona
As La Liga returns go, this could be a rather unpleasant experience for Antoine Griezmann.
Of course, it will not be on the scale of Luis Figo’s return to Barcelona after he switched to arch rivals Real Madrid at the turn of the century.
But perhaps it will be similar to Thibaut Courtois’ return to Atletico Madrid with Real last season, an occasion when plastic rats were hurled at him.
That the Belgian goalkeeper received such a welcome, even after a break from Spanish football in West London with Chelsea, showed time isn’t necessarily a great healer.
So, with the Griezmann feeling still raw – just 12 months after he pledged loyalty to Los Rojiblancos – it’s clear the departure of the French star this summer has cut Atletico fans to the core.
He was one of them as far as they were concerned and someone they may have wished well had he moved on 12 months earlier.
Yet by pledging his future to the club and then subsequently departing, there is a feeling amongst home fans which comprises an element of treachery – even if some within the game will understand his intentions to seek pastures new at the home of the Spanish champions.
That viewpoint will not matter one jot for the majority inside the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium this weekend as Griezmann returns to the place where he was, until recently, adored.
Indeed, we could witness one of the La Liga news stories of the season.
Atletico have constantly punched above their weight under Diego Simeone but the loss of a number of key players again this summer has made it very difficult for them to maintain runs which saw them crowned Spanish champions in 2014 and reach two out of three Champions League finals.
Barcelona are not exactly setting the world alight but they are top of La Liga and there were little glimpses of them getting back to near their best in midweek when they beat Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
Atletico didn’t play badly 24 hours earlier but this is a results industry and they went down narrowly, not for the first time, to Italian champions Juventus.
This match will tell us a lot about the direction in which both sides are heading this season.
Barcelona remain favourites to retain the title, perhaps with a reduced points tally than in recent times, Atletico will probably fall short of sustaining a title challenge unless, of course, they win this weekend and it sparks massive confidence in the ranks.
It is also questionable whether they’ve been quite the same since their move to a new stadium two years ago as the former one, Vicente Calderon, seemed to be a far more imposing arena for visitors.
Interestingly, only one Atletico player in the squad for Sunday’s fixture has scored against the Blaugrana and that is Saul. The other two are Diego Costa, sidelined due to a hernia, and Griezmann.
Atletico players have called on their fans to get behind the team – some supporters have voiced their disdain during recent matches due to the team’s disappointing run of form.
Do that this weekend and they will play into Barca – and Griezmann’s – hands.
Just over a year ago this fixture ended 1-1 when Ousmane Dembéle – who has been ruled out until the new year through injury – netted a 90th minute equaliser to earn Barcelona a point and keep them top of La Liga after Costa’s opener.
It was also 1-1 the season before when Saul again gave the hosts the lead before a late leveller from Luis Suarez.
|Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona||Total Goal 2-3 @ 1.90|
|December 2, 04:00 (GMT+8)|
SBOBET’s La Liga betting odds make Barcelona narrow favourites in what has got all the hallmarks of a major game.
Atletico can be backed 1X2 @ 2.73, Barcelona 1X2 @ 2.63 and the draw @ 3.10.
With the Asian Handicap odds, take a look at Atletico -0.25 @ 2.40 or Barcelona -0.25 @ 2.25.
A repeat of the last two league matches here – correct score 1-1 – will pay out @ 5.40.
This match will not be one for the faint-hearted and it would be easy for me to sit on the fence and predict a draw, although I do have a sneak for Barcelona. Atletico, though, do enjoy playing the club from Catalonia in recent years, including winning the title at the Nou Camp in 2014 and knocking them out of the Champions League in 2016 with two goals from Griezmann.
|A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR () BETS ARE WORTH:|
|= €20 (Highly confident)||= €10 (CONFIDENT)||= €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)|
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
CHECK OUT OUR BLOG FOR MORE FOOTBALL STORIES & ODDS
Stay updated with everything sports and betting.