The main talking point ahead of Atletico Madrid’s Champions League visit to Barcelona has been the ‘will he/won’t he’ soap-style plot relating to whether chief goal-getter Diego Costa will be fit to start.
Atletico manager Diego Simeone has intimated that it is unlikely after Costa publicly hobbled out of a final training session with a knee injury, but this could just be a see-through attempt at mind games.
Even if not fully fit, it is hard to envisage Costa sitting out of a game of this magnitude and Atletico’s win prospects would be hard to get excited about should the Brazilian-born Spaniard be rested for upcoming La Liga encounters.
Costa may be critical to Atletico’s fast-breaking, counter-attacking game, but it is worth noting that the current La Liga table-toppers are unbeaten in the five games he hasn’t started, including a 2-1 Champions League triumph at FC Porto, where David Villa was also forced off at half time.
Therefore, even though Barcelona have a Nou Camp record this season of 22 wins from 24 games with a positive goal difference of 69, there may be some mileage on the visitors securing a useful result.
Atletico Madrid’s odds are 9/2 to beat Barcelona, but the 6/4 on offer in the double chance market on Simeone’s men leaving with either a win or a draw has the greater appeal.
Through using you free £30 bet, a profit of £45 would be generated if the capital club avoid defeat in Catalonia.
Given all three meetings this season have seen a total of two goals, it is clear Atletico have devised an effective gameplan to stave off Barcelona’s Plan A, B and C passing strategy.
Keeping space minimal between the lines and forcing the ball wide are sure to be the dish of the day again for Atletico, who adopt a fairly similar attacking philosophy that suited FC Bayern so well against Barcelona last season.
The two strikers play especially deep and the urge to press the ball doesn’t really start until Barcelona provide possession to Sergio Busquets in midfield.
Under 2.5 goals in the match is enticing priced at 11/10, especially with Atletico conceding only four goals in the Champions League this season, which is the joint fewest goals of the eight teams remaining in the competition.