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Soccer Football – La Liga Santander – Atletico Madrid v Athletic Bilbao – Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain – November 10, 2018 Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin celebrates scoring their third goal with team mates REUTERS/Juan Medina

Atletico Madrid will have to overcome an eight-year winless streak if they are to beat Barcelona and jump above their rivals in La Liga on Saturday.
Here, AFP Sport looks at five areas where the game could be won and lost at the Wanda Metropolitano:

Atleti’s bogey team
Atletico have finished in La Liga’s top three for the past six years running but have not beaten Barcelona in the league since 2010, with 16 games going by without a victory for Diego Simeone’s side.

Perhaps their cautious approach is well-suited to their opponents, although they have beaten Barca twice in the Champions League knockout stage, or perhaps there is a psychological barrier and a lack of belief they can go toe-to-toe with them.

They have a great chance this weekend. Ernesto Valverde’s team are coming off the back of a bad defeat by Real Betis. Their defence is vulnerable while Philippe Coutinho, Ivan Rakitic and Marc-Andre ter Stegen are all struggling for fitness.

Griezmann must prove his worth
Antoine Griezmann has made no secret of his desire to win the Ballon d’Or, in fact his very public cravings even drew criticism from Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos in September.

Griezmann has won the World Cup and Europa League in 2018 but his numbers are still some way off the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

There is room to improve in the big games too. Messi has been relentless in this fixture, scoring 28 goals in 36 games against Atletico. They are his second favourite opponent, behind Sevilla and just above Real Madrid. Messi delivers against the biggest teams, while Griezmann is yet to prove he can consistently as well.

Busquets up against promising Rodri
Griezmann against Messi is a battle for the purists but for those that like the grittier side of the game, Sergio Busquets and Rodri Hernandez go head-to-head in midfield.

Busquets, 30, still has years left but some of his performances this season have not been at his usual standard. When Barca have lacked control, Busquets has been over-run. Rodri is not the finished article but has shown poise and vision beyond his relatively youthful age of 22.

Their performances will be of particular interest to Luis Enrique, with Rodri touted to be Busquets’ successor as Spain’s defensive midfielder in chief.

Barca’s leaky defence
After 12 games, Barcelona have already conceded 18 goals in La Liga, more than 13 of the other 19 teams in the table, including Leganes who sit in the relegation zone.

Less than a third of the way through the season, they have let in more than half of the 29 goals they shipped last term when they won the title. They are almost already at the 21 they conceded when crowned champions in 2015.

Gerard Pique has been error-ridden, Samuel Umtiti injured and Clement Lenglet still finding his feet. Too often Ter Stegen has had to come to the rescue.

Barca might yet score their way to trophies but if Atletico are brave this weekend, they will get chances.

Atletico’s blunt attack
Barca’s problems at the back may be eased by Atletico’s shortcomings up front, where key players have so far failed to deliver.

In La Liga, Griezmann is the team’s top scorer with three goals, ahead of Thomas Lemar, bought for 60 million euros last summer, on two. Diego Costa is yet to even get off the mark, his league drought now stretching all the way back to February.

Under Simeone, Atletico have always relied on a sturdy defence but the pressure to produce clean sheets has increased. Costa and Griezmann’s partnership will be crucial to the team’s success this season.



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