FC Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid FREE

Monday, 05 Mar, 2018

The pair were named on the bench for the trip to Las Palmas three days ago with this top-of-the-table showdown in mind, as Barca attempt to protect their five-point advantage at the summit.

This afternoon, if Barcelona are to hold off the challenge Atletico Madrid present at the Camp Nou, it will be necessary to ensure that one of the oppositions star players remains shackled.

"There is no player like Messi in the world", Valverde said. "The points (on Sunday) are important because they give us a (smaller) margin and that makes us better able to handle what's left". We went ahead in the first half, but the lead was slim.

Enough. But behind the silly puns, there lies some serious substance because the AG/DC forward line is looking very good indeed, revitalising the title race and breathing fresh life into an Atletico team which not long ago appeared to be floundering, failing to reach the Champions League knockout rounds and being humiliated in the Copa del Rey by Sevilla.

Atletico have an extra day to recover following the midweek game and in such a tightly balanced match that could be decisive, but so could Messi, Griezmann, Costa or Suarez in what promises to be 90 minutes of tension in Barcelona.

However, Valverde didn't agree with the assessment that Diego Simeone's side go into the encounter in better form. "It's a challenge for me", he said. The former Chelsea striker has netted five goals in nine games overall. Diego Simeone's side had scored nine goals in their last two league outings, but they didn't even come close to adding to that tally in the first half.

Atletico, too, had a goal ruled out as they sought an equaliser that would have at least kept them on Barca's coattails.

Los Cholconeros destroyed Leganes 4-0 with all four goals coming from Antoine Griezmann, and will really fancy their chances against the stuttering leaders.

"I can't read the future, but I can say that I would prefer him to reserve his goals for another game", Valverde said when asked if he'd like Griezmann to save his goals for when he's wearing a Barca shirt.