Match Preview and Team News
On Saturday Barcelona travel to the Vicente Calderon for what is always a tough game against Atletico Madrid. Just two points below Madrid, Barcelona will be hoping that their recent league form can prompt a repeat of last season's 6-0 win in the same fixture. Ronaldinho returns to the Barcelona squad, while Aguero shakes off his injury in time to make the Atletico squad....
Barcelona are unbeaten in all competitions since defeat to Real Madrid on December 23rd last year but their record at the Vicente Calderon is poor: last seasons victory was the first in five attempts.
Toure, Bojan Krkic and Rafa Marquez will all miss the match through injury, while Ronaldinho, Giovani Dos Santos, Sylvinho and Gudjohnsen are all returned to the squad after being left out of the midweek clash with Valencia.
Ronaldinho has spoken out about his recent spell on the sidelines (starting just 11 games this season) in a bid to end the seemingly endless speculation about his future. The Brazilian said "The future belongs to God. I have a few years left on my contract and I see myself here. I don't want to think about what will happen if I have to put up with another season relegated to the bench. That's not something that enters into my head as I'm very positive and I always imagine myself playing at my best."
The player went on to explain that he accepts Frank Rijkaard's decision to rest him, even if he doesn't necessarily agree, adding "rotations are normal in a group of players with so much quality. The coach makes changes so we're all in good shape physically and happy. I'm ready to play 90 minutes if the coach feels he can count on me."
Atletico have lost their last two league games and crashed out of the Uefa cup last week. However, Maxi Lopez feels that Atletico are now focused upon the task in hand and that the side can turn a corner, starting with a win against Barcelona on Saturday. The Argentine international said "Crisis? No. We are on a bit of a bad run. We've started to surrender the confidence we had earlier on. We've lost key matches, and that hurts, but on Saturday we have to change that dynamic and get three points.
"We went through a bad time, but we'll fight back. We'll raise ourselves up. We're out of the UEFA Cup and the Copa del Rey, so no cups are left. Our goal is clear now, so let's fight. There's no crisis - we just need everyone's support."
Lets hope that Atletico President Enrique Cerezo sees things as positively. Coach Javier Aguirre is under increasing pressure and the rumours in Madrid suggest that defeat to Barcelona would cost the Mexican his job.
The suggestion that Aguirre's position might be in jeopardy at fourth placed Atletico is, perhaps, not as absurd as it might seem. After all, when your club President is daft enough to celebrate his birthday having his picture taken holding a Real Madrid shirt with his name on it, then who knows what might seem like a good idea after a couple of bottles of Rioja on Saturday evening.
On the plus side, Kun Aguero appears to have shaken off a minor injury and has told his boss that he is ready to face Barcelona. With Thiago Motta set to miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to finally put an end to his knee problems, Aguirre may have to draft 17 year old Ignacio Comacho from the youth set up to bolster a malfunctioning Atletico midfield.
Fabiano Eller and Mariano Pernía have paid the price for a dismal performance last week and have been left out of the squad, while Leo Franco and Giorgos Setaridis all join Motta on the treatment table.
Prediction: Do we have to? Oh, alright then...Draw/Away win