La Liga

La Liga 06/02/22: Barcelona host Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid eager to extend cushion

La Liga returns this week after a winter break. We have some terrific fixtures for you to feast your eyes on. In this preview, we will look ahead to two big games taking place on Sunday — Barcelona v Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid v Granada. Check out our thoughts below.

Barcelona in good shape ahead of Atletico Madrid test

Barcelona have tightened up the back over the past few weeks, and they have made themselves harder to beat. In their last La Liga outing away to Alaves, Xavi’s men were forced to dig deep. They claimed all three points when midfielder Frenkie De Jong struck with three minutes left of normal time.

There have been plenty of comings and goings during the January transfer window. Adama Traore headed back to the Nou Camp on loan, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined from Arsenal on loan, and Ousmane Dembele headed to Paris Saint-Germain. Xavi’s men are currently fifth in the La Liga table, and a win over Atletico will see them leapfrog the reigning Spanish champions into fourth.

Atletico Madrid dealing with mini COVID-19 outbreak

Over the past week, Atletico Madrid have had to deal with a mini COVID-19 outbreak. Goalkeeper Jan Oblak and Felipe have both succumbed to the virus, and they are currently quarantined at home. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to face Barcelona on Sunday.

Barcelona v Atletico Madrid: A look back on past clashes

Usually, the head-to-head record can be a good gauge of how things might unfold. In the case of Barcelona v Atletico, the contests at the Nou Camp have been quite tight. Last season, Atletico picked up a point in a goalless draw. But they know they can’t afford to drop points if they are going to fend off Barca and secure a top-four berth.

Atletico Madrid make themselves clear over Yannick Carrasco

During the January transfer window, there are always rumours and gossip flying about. And on deadline day, Tottenham tried to make a cheeky play for Yannick Carrasco. However, Atletico were keen to stress that Carrasco isn’t for sale. Atletico, however, sealed a deal for Danish utility player Daniel Wass. It will be interesting to see where he fits into Diego Simeone’s plans.

Real Madrid looking to extend lead at the top after Elche scare

There have been few times where Real Madrid have been tested. However, they were given an almighty scare against Elche before the winter break. They were trailing 2-0 after 76 minutes. In the end, Carlo Ancelotti’s charges netted twice in the space of nine minutes to snatch an unlikely draw.

What was even more worrying was that Karim Benzema, who missed a first-half penalty, came off the pitch with a hamstring injury. He could be a doubt to face Granada on Sunday evening. The French striker has been invaluable to Ancelotti, as he fired home 27 goals in 33 appearances in all competitions for Los Blancos.

As things stand, Real are four points clear at the top of La Liga, and they have lost just twice this campaign. In contrast, Granada are 14th in the table. Although they are six points above the drop zone, they risk being dragged into a relegation fight if they aren’t careful.

Read Madrid v Granada: Unlocking the vault on past clashes

Unsurprisingly, there is a bit of a gulf in class between these two sides. Well, that’s the case according to past encounters. Real Madrid won the past two encounters by the same scoreline, 4-1, and last season at the Bernabeu, Ancelotti’s men ran out 2-0 winners. On that day, Casemiro and Benzema popped up with the goals.

Real have looked very fluid going forward so far this season. Granada can’t afford to drop too deep and play within themselves, otherwise they will be picked off with ease. The signs and the form guide seem to suggest Real will come away with all three points.

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