Luis Suarez has slammed Ronald Koeman for lacking personality and also hit out at former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu after winning LaLiga with Atletico Madrid.

The 34-year-old striker was controversially allowed to leave Barca for domestic rivals Atletico after six successful seasons at Camp Nou.

Suarez responded by firing in 21 goals in 32 league matches for Atleti, including two in their final two matches in priceless wins against Osasuna and Real Valladolid. The latter goal ultimately sealed the title, with his league strikes leading to 22 points in total across the season.

The Uruguay forward has regularly discussed how hurt he was by his Barca departure and looked at it from a fresh angle after showing his emotion when Atleti got over the line to claim league glory.



Suarez told El Partidazo de COPE: "The tears were of happiness. It was because of the situation.

"I will always be grateful to Barcelona and I'm never going to go against Barcelona, they have given me everything and allowed me to get to the elite.

"But obviously the president [Bartomeu] said everything in the press instead of calling me.

"Then the moment they wanted Leo [Messi] to stay they called me to use me to convince him, to talk to [Antoine] Griezmann – so why didn't they call me when they wanted me to leave?

"Or why did the coach not come and tell me that he does not count on me because he wants another type of striker?

"Koeman told me I wasn't in his plans, then he said, 'If we don't figure this out by tomorrow, you're back in my plans and I'm counting on you against Villarreal'.

"I saw then that the man had no personality. He was not strong enough to tell me I was not needed. The decision [to sell] came from the board.

"No one [from Barca's management has] congratulated me, but I nearly sent them a photo!"

Suarez added he would find it "impossible" to leave Atleti ahead of next season, the club having confirmed he will stay for the second year of his contract should he wish to do so.

 

Atleti boss Diego Simeone, meanwhile, has discussed the circumstances around signing Suarez, insisting he was not going to let the opportunity slide.

"I met a man. I expected nothing less," Simone said to ESPN about Suarez.

"I was very happy from the first day I spoke with him, I had already spoken with him when he was at Liverpool, in an effort for him to sign with us but he chose Barcelona.

"And when the possibility [for Atletico to sign him] appeared, the club called me and said, 'What do you think about the possibility of Luis Suarez coming?' and I replied, 'Are you serious?' Don't ask me, let's go for it, let me talk to him'.

"When I spoke to him, the first thing I said to him was, 'Look Luis, we need to win, and you want to win, the door is open.

"There are players who are chosen with the magic wand, like Suarez, he is a winner.

"He came with all the questions about his departure at Barcelona and arrived with a rebellion of a 20-year-old boy, with an enthusiasm, wanting to show that he was a force.

"And when a guy who is used to winning, joins a team that needs to win it can paint [a perfect picture]."

Neymar was touched by the sight of Luis Suarez in tears after helping Atletico Madrid clinch the LaLiga title.

Their Barcelona bond remains, even though both have left Camp Nou, where alongside Lionel Messi they formed the famous 'MSN' strike trio.

On Sunday, Neymar was hoping to help Paris Saint-Germain win the Ligue 1 title, as they looked to overhaul leaders Lille on the final day.

But the Brazilian was also caught up in the drama of Saturday's finale to the Spanish LaLiga season, as Atletico pipped Real Madrid to glory.

Suarez, who made a painful exit from Barcelona last September, scored 21 goals in 32 league games as Atletico broke up the familiar Madrid-Barcelona duopoly.

His goals were worth a total of 22 points to Atleti, more than any other player in LaLiga this season.

The 33-year-old let his emotions flow after scoring the decisive goal in the final-day 2-1 win over Real Valladolid, breaking down at full-time while on a video call to his family.

It was that moment that tugged at the heartstrings of Neymar, who alongside a picture of the weeping striker wrote a message on his Instagram story: "Well done @luissuarez. I'm happy for you brother. You deserve it. You're a star."

England international Kieran Trippier revelled in winning the championship in just his second year in LaLiga.

Trippier wrote on Instagram: "CAMPEONESSSS! Wow, what a feeling! To win @laliga with this incredible group of players is a dream come true. Thank you to everyone who has supported me this year. Vamos!!"

Atletico Madrid are champions of Spain again after holding off heavyweight pair Real Madrid and Barcelona in the closing stages to win their second LaLiga crown in eight seasons.

Atleti beat Real Valladolid 2-1 on Saturday to finish two points above Madrid – the only side that could catch them heading into the final round of games after Barca lost ground.

Diego Simeone's men moved into top spot with a 4-0 win over Cadiz on November 7 and, despite some inconsistency over the past two months, they have stayed there ever since.

With the help of Opta, we took a look at the numbers behind Los Colchoneros' latest triumph.

ATLETI BREAK MADRID-BARCA STRONGHOLD

Atleti have now been crowned champions of Spain 11 times – three of those in the last 43 years – which is third only to perennial winners Real Madrid (34 titles) and Barcelona (26).

Athletic Bilbao are next on the list with eight titles to their name, while Valencia have come out on top on six occasions.

Indeed, Simeone's charges are the only side other than Madrid or Barca to finish at the summit of Spain's top flight in the past 16 years, doing so this season and in 2013-14.

Atletico have now claimed the title in at least one season in eight of the last 10 decades – only in the 1920s and 1980s did they fail to do so.

DESERVED TITLE WINNERS

Atletico have spent 30 matchdays on top of the table, despite only stringing together successive wins on a couple of occasions since the end of January.

They won 26, drew eight and lost four of their 38 matches to end the season with 86 points – their longest winning run being the eight strung together between December 19 and January 31.

It is the 10th time Atleti's fate has gone down to the final day of the season, most dramatically of all in 2014 when drawing away at Barca to hold off their title rivals.

That season, incidentally, Simeone's side spent 11 matchdays alone at the top of the table.

THE CHANGING FACE OF ATELTICO

Another interesting aspect of Atletico's title success is that this is the first season they have averaged more than 50 per cent possession in the league under Simeone.

They have averaged 52.02 per cent possession in LaLiga in 2020-21, which compares to 48.75 per cent in the season they last finished top, and is an increase on the 47.86 per cent they managed last season when finishing 17 points off top spot.

Increased possession has led to a better balance, too, with Atletico scoring 67 goals this season, which is the joint-third most they have mustered in Simeone's nine seasons at the helm, alongside 2014-15 and behind 2013-14 (77) and 2016-17 (70).

The 25 goals they have conceded, meanwhile, is their fourth-best return over that time, their best season in that regard being the 18 goals shipped in 2015-16.

OBLAK, SUAREZ AND LLORENTE KEY TO SUCCESS

As Simeone has himself repeatedly pointed out, this has once again been a collective effort from Atletico.

However, there is no doubt that this latest title triumph would not have been possible if not for certain individuals – none more so than Luis Suarez, who joined from Barcelona at the start of the season for a small fee.

The Uruguay international scored comeback-clinching goals for Atletico in their final two games of the season and won 21 points for his side in total – more than any other player in the division – with his 21 goals.

Indeed, only Radamel Falcao in 2011-12 (24 goals) and Antoine Griezmann in 2014-15 (22) have scored more goals in their first season at the club in the 21st century.

At the opposite end, goalkeeper Jan Oblak made 103 saves from the 125 shots faced in LaLiga this season – an 80 per cent save rate, the best percentage of any keeper in Europe's top five leagues among those to have played at least three times.

Marcos Llorente is another deserving of special recognition, having played a direct part in 23 LaLiga goals – 12 of his own and a further 11 assists – a tally that is bettered by just Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes (30) among midfielders in Europe's top leagues.

His 12 goals came from an expected goals (xG) return of 3.4 – a difference of 8.6 – which is the biggest differential between xG and actual goals of any player in the big five leagues bar Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (41 goals from an xG of 32.3).

 

We should have known Diego Simeone would do it differently.

The customary celebrations were all there: the cheers, the hugs, the hoisting of the coach high into the air by jubilant, exhausted players.

Yet the most poignant moment of Saturday's post-match scenes at the Jose Zorrilla, where Atletico Madrid became LaLiga champions for the 11th time, was one of quiet reflection. Simeone, wiping his eyes, went to console dejected Real Valladolid players whose relegation was confirmed by that 2-1 defeat. His own emotions running their highest, he was still attuned to theirs.

Simeone has always seemed fuelled by the raw emotive power of a football match, more than any other coach among Europe's elite clubs. When he reels off platitudes in dour pre-game press talks, it's like he's frightened of wasting an ounce of energy; once the whistle sounds, he explodes into a 90-minute sideline supernova, frantic, impassioned, inspirational.

It was like that this season perhaps more than any other. This was his second league title with Atleti and eighth trophy – a record among those to have coached the club – in 10 years overall, but it feels like this one belongs to him most of all. This was the crowning of true Cholismo champions: a triumph built on the power of belief.

Atleti have defied expectations at almost every turn in 2020-21. Even on the final day, when they just needed a win against a team they had beaten 10 times in 11 games, it almost slipped away.

Oscar Plano, a former Real Madrid player, opened the scoring to give his old club hope only for Villarreal to take the lead in the capital, where Madrid knew only a victory would be enough to defend their crown. Angel Correa's dancing feet and inspired toe-poke levelled the scores with just Atleti's second shot on target of the match; nearly 200 kilometres away, Karim Benzema saw an equaliser disallowed by VAR. When Luis Suarez swept home his 21st goal of the season from the best throughball of the contest – an errant hoof by Valladolid substitute Michel – it felt like fate was overplaying her hand.

So it has been throughout nine months of hectic schedules and empty stadia. Exhausted Atleti players missed the succour of roaring fans like the rest, but the difference was their firebrand coach. Simeone demands the utmost, but he gives his players the conviction that they can deliver it, no matter what the outside world expects. It's brutal, unquenchable defiance. It's Cholismo.

Atletico have outperformed expectations so much this season they almost had little right to be champions. They have scored 67 goals from just 53.07 expected goals (xG) in LaLiga and conceded 25 from expected goals against (xGA) of 37.8. Add those differentials together and you get 26.73, the highest such figure in Europe's top-five leagues, and nearly 27 reasons why they should not have finished top.

Suarez, cast out of Barcelona as an expensive has-been, has outscored his xG by 4.85, a bigger number than in his final three seasons at Camp Nou. His 21 goals have delivered as many points, more than any other player in the competition.

Marcos Llorente, a defensive midfielder warming the Madrid bench before his move two years ago, is the first Atletico player to reach double figures for goals and assists in a single season since Diego Forlan in 2008-09. The only other 'double-double' in all of LaLiga this season was achieved by Celta Vigo forward Iago Aspas.

On February 1, Stats Perform AI gave Atleti a 79.9 per cent chance of winning the title thanks to their 10-point lead, yet they managed to allow the race to come down to the final day – and still win it by a whisker after falling behind.

That's what Simeone gives you. In a modern game supposed to be won by controlled variables and tiny percentages, Atleti just reminded us all what a little faith can do.

Luis Suarez will be forever grateful to Atletico Madrid for giving him a chance to lead a title charge following his departure from Barcelona.

Suarez had been a star at Barca since his arrival from Liverpool in 2014, yet his six-year spell at Camp Nou came to an abrupt end when he was deemed surplus to requirements by the club.

Lionel Messi was unhappy with the decision, which has proved even more bizarre given Barca's troubles, with Suarez ultimately proving decisive in the title race.

Atleti clinched their 11th LaLiga crown thanks to his goal on Saturday, which sealed a 2-1 comeback win over Real Valladolid, meaning Real Madrid's late turnaround against Villarreal was irrelevant.

Suarez's 21 top-flight goals have been worth 22 points to Atleti this season – more than any other LaLiga player.

And, in an emotional interview with Movistar, Suarez explained his debt to Atleti.

"The situation I experienced last summer was difficult, the way I was underestimated," the 34-year-old said.

"Barca didn't value me and Atletico opened their doors for me to keep on showing the player I am. I will always be grateful to this club for trusting in me."

Atleti had won four of their previous five LaLiga away games against Valladolid heading into Saturday's showdown, but their opponents – who were relegated as a result of their eventual defeat – went ahead in the 18th minute through Oscar Plano's breakaway goal.

Yet Angel Correa's stunning solo effort – his 20th direct goal involvement for Atleti across all competitions in 2020-21 – restored parity, before Suarez pounced on a Michel error to complete the turnaround.

It marks Simeone's eighth trophy win with Atleti, and his second LaLiga title. He is only the third coach to lead the club to two league crowns, while no other manager has accumulated such a silverware haul with Los Colchoneros.

Another key figure in the title charge has been Marcos Llorente, who finishes the campaign with 13 goals and 12 assists across all competitions.

"We're knackered," he added. "It's been a really tight season with a lot of games. It's been tough physically, but in the end we've got this crucial win and we've managed to win the title. The togetherness we have has been crucial to achieving this.

"We felt the nerves a bit today given it was such a key game, but we just wanted to win so as not to have to think about the result of the other game. At the break we managed to calm ourselves down and we went out there and turned the match around."

Atletico Madrid have won LaLiga for the 11th time in their history.

Diego Simeone's side beat Real Valladolid 2-1 on Saturday to clinch their first top-flight crown since 2013-14 and just their third in 25 years.

Previous champions Real Madrid, who fought back to beat Villarreal by the same scoreline in their final match of 2020-21, finished second in the table, with Barcelona securing third by beating relegated Eibar and Sevilla – who play on Sunday – set to end the season fourth.

Atleti are the only team to have won Spain's top league other than Madrid or Barca since Valencia claimed their sixth title in 2003-04.

Simeone is just the third coach to win two LaLiga titles for the club, following Ricardo Zamora (1939-40 and 1940-41) and Helenio Herrera (1949-50 and 1950-51).

The result also meant Valladolid were relegated to the second tier.

It is the fifth LaLiga title in the career of striker Luis Suarez, who finished as Atleti's top scorer this season with 21 goals in 32 league games.

The 34-year-old only joined Atleti last year after being deemed surplus to requirements at Barca.

Former Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente was also key to Atleti's title triumph. With 12 goals and 11 assists, he is the first Atletico player since Diego Forlan (32 goals, 10 assists) in 2008-09 to record a 'double-double' of at least 10 goals and assists in the same season.

Llorente has epitomised the way Atleti have performed beyond expectations this season. His 12 goals have come from just 3.41 expected goals (xG), and his 11 assists from 5.38 expected assists (xA). The difference in each of those figures is the highest among LaLiga players in 2020-21.

Atletico Madrid have won LaLiga for the 11th time in their history.

Diego Simeone's side beat Real Valladolid 2-1 on Saturday to clinch their first top-flight crown since 2013-14 and just their third in 25 years.

Previous champions Real Madrid, who fought back to beat Villarreal by the same scoreline in their final match of 2020-21, finished second in the table, with Barcelona securing third by beating relegated Eibar and Sevilla – who play on Sunday – set to end the season fourth.

Atleti are the only team to have won Spain's top league other than Madrid or Barca since Valencia claimed their sixth title in 2003-04.

Simeone is just the third coach to win two LaLiga titles for the club, following Ricardo Zamora (1939-40 and 1940-41) and Helenio Herrera (1949-50 and 1950-51).

The result also meant Valladolid were relegated to the second tier.

It is the fifth LaLiga title in the career of striker Luis Suarez, who finished as Atleti's top scorer this season with 21 goals in 32 league games.

The 34-year-old only joined Atleti last year after being deemed surplus to requirements at Barca.

Former Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente was also key to Atleti's title triumph. With 12 goals and 11 assists, he is the first Atletico player since Diego Forlan (32 goals, 10 assists) in 2008-09 to record a 'double-double' of at least 10 goals and assists in the same season.

Llorente has epitomised the way Atleti have performed beyond expectations this season. His 12 goals have come from just 3.41 expected goals (xG), and his 11 assists from 5.38 expected assists (xA). The difference in each of those figures is the highest among LaLiga players in 2020-21.

Atletico Madrid claimed their 11th LaLiga title as Angel Correa and Luis Suarez inspired a 2-1 comeback victory over Real Valladolid on a tense final day of 2020-21.

With second-placed Real Madrid facing Villarreal, Diego Simeone's men needed a win to guarantee the title, but their hopes hung in the balance when Oscar Plana put relegation-battling Valladolid ahead.

But Correa's superb solo effort restored parity, with a glaring miss from Shon Weissman at the other end setting the stage for Suarez to complete the turnaround.

Madrid produced a late turnaround to win 2-1 but finished two points behind their city rivals in the table.

The pressure on Atleti's shoulders was reflected in a frantic start from the league leaders, with Suarez and Saul Niguez snatching at efforts before Valladolid struck.

In the 18th minute, a breakdown in Atleti's attack resulted in Marcos de Sousa feeding Plano who, after just keeping himself ahead of a glut of chasing defenders, slotted coolly beyond Jan Oblak.

Jawad El Yamiq nearly handed Atleti a reprieve with what would have been a calamitous own goal, and with Weissman having squandered a chance to double Valladolid's lead, Suarez went close after the restart, only for Saidy Janko to clear the Uruguayan's goal-bound header.

Yet the pressure finally told in the 57th minute.

It looked like the chance to shoot had gone when Correa took a heavy touch, yet nifty footwork created space between four defenders and the Argentine prodded a brilliant finish low into the right-hand corner.

Valladolid seemed all set to restore their lead just after the hour, only for Weissman to again miss a golden opportunity, heading over a gaping goal after Oblak had parried Lucas Olaza's strike.

Atleti made Valladolid pay, Suarez pouncing on Michel's sloppy pass to race clear and curl home the decisive blow, clinching Simeone's second LaLiga crown and condemning the hosts to the second tier.

Luis Suarez praised the character shown by Atletico Madrid to dig deep and clinch a dramatic 2-1 win over Osasuna that keeps them top of LaLiga.

Atleti's hopes of landing a first top-flight title in seven years seemed to be dealt a blow in Sunday's clash at the Wanda Metropolitano when Ante Budimir put mid-table Osasuna in front.

It was the Croatia international's seventh headed goal of the season – no player in LaLiga has more – but Diego Simeone's side turned the game around in the final eight minutes.

Substitute Renan Lodi fired in an equaliser and Suarez, who had earlier hit the post and missed a couple of other good chances, guided in a dramatic late winner.

The win ensures Simeone's side head to Real Valladolid on the final day of the season only needing to match Real Madrid's result against Villarreal to finish top.

Suarez's strike came from his seventh shot of the game and the Uruguay international admitted his side were made to suffer for their 25th win of the campaign.

"These are moments of happiness, we did not deserve to suffer as much as we suffered," he told Movistar. 

"We missed many chances – me in particular. But to win the league you have to suffer, as today showed. I knew we would suffer here, but not that much.

"The effort and sacrifice of the team was great, with many people working so that the club can achieve its objectives. Now we have a chance to rest and prepare for the next game."

Had Suarez not found a way through late on – ending a five-game scoreless run in the process – Atleti would have entered the final matchday second to Madrid in the table.

The ex-Barcelona striker has now earned 19 points for Atletico with his 20 goals – only Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri has helped his team to more points in LaLiga this term.

"Luis has not scored for a bit, but he's always been involved," Simeone said at his post-match news conference. "He gives us leadership – who better than him to win the game.

"During the drinks break near the end, I told the players we had to look for the draw. The goal soon arrived and then Suarez showed why he is an important player."

Atletico have spent 29 matchdays at the top of LaLiga, despite some inconsistent results since the end of January, and are now one game from winning the title.

"We will prepare for the last game with the same enthusiasm to when I arrived at this club in 2011," Simeone said. "The team will be fierce. I hope the fans will be proud of us.

"We chose this profession trying to do the best we can to reach this moment. You have to prepare in the best way. I don't understand any other way."

Luis Suarez scored an 88th-minute winner to earn Atletico Madrid a dramatic 2-1 comeback win over Osasuna that keeps their LaLiga title hopes in their own hands heading into the final matchday.

Their dreams of a first title since the 2013-14 season appeared to have suffered a damaging blow 15 minutes from full-time when Ante Budimir struck completely against the run of play in Sunday's clash at Wanda Metropolitano.

Diego Simeone's side had earlier wasted a string of opportunities, twice hit the post and had strikes from Stefan Savic and Yannick Carrasco ruled out, though they dug deep to turn the game around in the final eight minutes.

Substitute Renan Lodi equalised and Suarez atoned for some earlier misses by firing in a winner for Atleti, the result moving them two points above Real Madrid – the only side that can now catch them – with one game left in the season.

Diego Simeone says Atletico Madrid are entering the "Luis Suarez zone" as they edge closer to securing a first LaLiga title since the 2013-14 season.

Atleti hold a two-point advantage over city rivals and reigning champions Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga, and face Osasuna in their penultimate game of the season at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday.

Should they claim three points against Jagoba Arrasate's side and Los Blancos fail to beat Athletic Bilbao, in a game which kicks off at the same time, Atletico will be crowned champions with a game remaining.

Leading the charge up front will be Uruguay international Suarez, who has scored 19 goals in his first season at the club since joining from Barcelona.

Suarez, 34, won four LaLiga titles during his time at Barca and Simeone is expecting him to use all that experience to ensure Atleti do not slip up in their final two games.

"As for Luis, we have entered the Suarez zone," Simeone told a news conference.

"It is an ideal moment for a footballer like him to find and solve game situations that the team will need. He is used to games like this and has the experience to do it."

Atleti are red-hot favourites to beat Osasuna, who have lost eight of their last 10 away games against Los Rojiblancos.

Despite this, Simeone is expecting a tough game and wants maximum focus from his side, who are aiming to score two or more goals in four consecutive home league games for the first time since April 2016.

"In football you cannot choose a rival," Simeone added. "There are no small enemies. Football is day to day and you have to play according to the game that you play.

"We continue in the same way as always. We are dealing with Osasuna, a team that has competed very well historically and will do so tomorrow as well. 

"Osasuna is changing. Lately he [Arrasate] uses 4-3-3 more, although he may return to 4-4-2 that has been in the essence of his game.

"He works much more across the game, with fast people on the outside, with people from the second row to accompany his striker and a very strong collective work.

"We seek to play a good game, take it to where we can hurt Osasuna and know that the rival will come to play with enthusiasm."

Luis Suarez was determined to prove his doubters wrong after getting the chance to continue playing at the highest level with Atletico Madrid.

Suarez left Barcelona after a 2019-20 season that saw the Spanish giants finish without a trophy. Having lost out to Real Madrid in a tight title race, hopes of Champions League glory were emphatically ended at the quarter-final stage by Bayern Munich.

The Uruguay striker had scored 21 goals in all competitions yet was deemed surplus to requirements at Camp Nou, allowed to leave on the cheap as he remained within LaLiga at Atleti.

Barca have watched on as their former player has scored 19 league goals to help Diego Simeone's squad push to be crowned Spanish champions - they top the table by two points with two games remaining, the first of which is at home to Osasuna on Sunday.

For Suarez, the desire to succeed following his switch to the capital was fuelled by those who had declared him to be in a state of decline.

"You like a challenge. And coming here was a very big challenge for me for many things," he said in an interview for Club del Deportista magazine.

"Last year I received criticism and they said that I was not here to compete for important things, or that at Barcelona I could not compete at a high level.

"That will generate a challenge to an individual, you want to continue to demonstrate that you can do something at the elite level of football, something I've been demonstrating as the kind of player I am for many years.

"I experienced it as a great challenge and with great enthusiasm. I'm not sorry at all, on the contrary, excited and eager to continue demonstrating."

Suarez also revealed his future plans at international level as he intends to finish his Uruguay career after next year's World Cup in Qatar.

The 34-year-old is his country's all-time leading scorer and helped them win the 2011 Copa America, a year after a fourth-place finish at the World Cup in South Africa.

"My wish is to be able to play the World Cup in Qatar and afterwards one must realise that the time has come," the former Ajax and Liverpool forward said.

"First by age and then by the young people who come after, so that they have the possibility. When the time comes I will make the appropriate decision, although assuming that costs a player a lot, but I have been working on it for a long time."

So we come to it: the biggest LaLiga game between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid for seven years.

Forget the Champions League disappointments, the off-the-field murmurings about money problems and the lingering toxic cloud of the Super League, and get ready for a title showdown.

League leaders Atletico are two points clear of Real Madrid and Barca with four games to go. If the match produces a winner, that team will have the power to decide their own fate. A draw could be enough for Atleti. A defeat for either may prove fatal to their chances.

The last time these two teams met this late in the season with the title still on the line for both was on that famous final day in 2013-14, when Atleti went to Camp Nou knowing they would win the league if they did not lose the match. Alexis Sanchez broke the deadlock, Diego Godin equalised, and Atleti were crowned kings of Spain for the first time in 18 years.

Nothing will be decided this season on Saturday, of course, and as any LaLiga coach will tell the media at any given opportunity, "every game is a final". But this one feels a bit different. With Madrid and fourth-place Sevilla meeting this weekend, too, Barca and Atleti must sense this is a massive chance to get a hand on the trophy.

 

FORM IS TEMPORARY...

For the neutral, the fact we even have a title race in early May is something to celebrate. So dominant were Atleti in the first half of the season – 16 wins, two draws and one defeat from their first 19 games – that the rest were struggling to keep up.

In fact, according to Stats Perform AI, on January 22 Atleti had a 75.1 per cent chance of winning the title based on predicted results, while Barca's chances were just 12.4 per cent. As of April 30, however, that same predictor model gave Atleti a 38 per cent chance of winning the league, with Barca just behind on 32.6.

While Atleti have won only half of their past 16 league games, Barca have been one of Europe's most in-form sides in 2021, winning all but three of their 19 league matches since the turn of the year – and lifting the Copa del Rey. They have collected 49 points in 2021, the most in the division and eight more than the leaders.

History is also on their side in this fixture: the 1-0 defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano in the reverse game, when Yannick Carrasco grabbed a first-half winner, was their only league loss to Atleti in their most recent 21 meetings. They have not lost at home to them since Pepe Murcia's side ran out 3-1 winners in February 2006. Diego Simeone has drawn three and lost five of his league games in charge of Atleti at Camp Nou, making it his least favourite opposition ground as well as the scene of arguably his greatest coaching achievement.

 

OUTPERFORMING

This weekend's game is also the meeting of the best defence and attack in the division. Barca have scored 80 league goals, at least 19 more than anyone else, but Atleti have conceded a miserly 22. Attacks win games, defences win titles, as the adage goes.

Barca have actually faced the fewest shots (280) of any team in LaLiga this season, 40 fewer than Atleti, who are sixth best. However, the Blaugrana have conceded 33 goals from an Expected Goals Against figure of 37.0, whereas Atleti's 22 have come from an xGA of 33.7.

That highlights perhaps Atleti's greatest asset: based on Expected Goals on Target – an indicator of the quality of shots faced by a goalkeeper – Jan Oblak has prevented 7.1 goals this season, the highest figure in LaLiga. For teams in Europe's top-five leagues, no goalkeeper who has played more than 10 games this season has a better save percentage (79.1) than Atleti's Slovenian sensation.

 

MESSI V SUAREZ: BEST OF ENEMIES

Having missed the reverse fixture, this will be the first time Luis Suarez has faced Barca since his rather acrimonious departure at the end of last season. To date, the Uruguay striker – who has 166 career goals in LaLiga – has scored against all 30 of the teams he has faced in Spain's top flight.

Suarez has been a driving force of Atleti's title charge, even though he has only managed three goals in his most recent 11 games. With 19 goals in 28 league appearances overall in 2020-21, Suarez is averaging 0.79 per 90 minutes. Only one player has a better rate: Lionel Messi (0.92), the top scorer in the league with 28 and perhaps the most in-form player since the turn of the year.

Since January 1, Messi has scored 21 goals in 18 games, more than anyone else in Europe's top five leagues. Excluding one penalty scored, he has plundered 20 from an xG of just 11, giving him the biggest positive differential for anyone in those top five leagues in 2021. He is a man on a mission – perhaps his final mission for the club, if he doesn't agree to extend his contract.

Prevailing wisdom would suggest one of these former team-mates will decide this contest and, in turn, the fate of the title race. Barca and Atleti have waited seven years for a battle like this – who will hold their nerve?

 

Erling Haaland might be too expensive a purchase for some of football's richest clubs. 

The Borussia Dortmund sensation is on everyone's wish list.

The question is who will be willing to meet his reported demands?

 

TOP STORY - LALIGA GIANTS PRICED OUT OF HAALAND MOVE?

Haaland's apparent desire for a €35million annual salary has the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid thinking twice about a potential move, Goal reported. 

The prolific 20-year-old's agent, Mino Raiola, has held informal discussions with both LaLiga stalwarts but the sides did not get into specifics about finances. 

For now it appears Barca and Madrid are content to wait it out and see how Haaland's market unfolds. 

That is not the case for another potential suitor. According to Goal, an unnamed English club that made inquiries about the Leeds-born striker earlier this year has backed away from talks due to that salary figure. 

The mystery team is not Chelsea, who consider Haaland their top target according to an Evening Standard report. 

 

ROUND-UP

- While the Blues can hope to land the high-flying Norwegian, Timo Werner may be on the way out. Though the Evening Standard reports Chelsea have not yet seriously discussed selling him, it is not clear how he fits into the Blues' strike force at the moment.

Gianluigi Donnarumma is out of contract with AC Milan this summer and has had talks with Juventus, per La Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Manchester United have coveted Nikola Milenkovic and may be ready to make a move for the Fiorentina defender, though The Sun says United would not be interested at the rumoured £38m fee. 

- United also want Edinson Cavani to have another season at Old Trafford, but at age 34 he might want to move closer to home. Boca Juniors would offer him a two-year deal, says Fabrizio Romano. 

- Watford are prepared to bring Ashley Young back to the club should they return to the Premier League next season, the Daily Mail says. Young's contract with Inter is expiring.

- After a loan spell with Paris Saint-GermainAlessandro Florenzi could be in line to play in Italy with Inter next season rather than returning to Roma, La Gazzetta dello Sport reported. 

- Luis Suarez appears likely to remain with Atletico Madrid, but there is a possibility he could rekindle last year's reported talks with David Beckham's Inter Miami. The American side's interest in the Uruguayan "has not stopped," according to Mundo Deportivo. 

- One player not headed anywhere is Karim Benzema, who Marca reports will sign to remain with Real Madrid through 2023.

Atletico Madrid have confirmed that striker Luis Suarez is facing a possible spell on the sidelines after injuring a muscle in his left leg.

The Uruguay international, who leads the scoring charts for Atleti this season with 19 league goals, sustained the injury during a training session on Wednesday.

A statement released on Atletico's official website did not reveal the extent of the damage, but reports from Spain suggest the 34-year-old is facing three weeks out.

Suarez was already suspended for Sunday's trip to Real Betis and may also now miss league games with Eibar, Huesca and Athletic Bilbao before the end of April.

It is another blow for the LaLiga leaders, who have won just four of their past 10 league games to let Barcelona and Real Madrid close the gap to one and three points respectively.

Former Barca striker Suarez has remained injury free since joining Atleti at the start of the season, though he did spend time out after testing positive for coronavirus in November.

He has netted his 19 LaLiga goals in 26 appearances at a rate of one every 108.21 minutes, which is second only to Barcelona forward Lionel Messi (100.13) among those to have scored at least five times.

However, Atletico have won all four league games Suarez has not started this term and scored an average of 2.8 goals across those fixtures, compared to 1.6 with him in the line-up.

Diego Simeone will also be without suspended second top-scorer Marcos Llorente for next weekend's clash with Betis, possibly paving the way for Moussa Dembele to make his first start since joining on an initial loan deal from Lyon in January.

Page 3 of 5
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.