Luis Suarez was set to hog the headlines in his first sport in opposition to his former membership, however, the Uruguay striker has been dominated out after contracting Covid-19 in the course of the worldwide break. Atletico, although, nonetheless has loads extra attacking weapons to supply a significant check to Barca’s unreliable protection on Saturday (20:00 GMT), together with younger expertise who’s trying more and more able to residing as much as his standing because of the third costliest switch in historical past.
Dropping Suarez after his optimistic coronavirus check earlier this week is clearly a blow to Atletico as a result of the previous Barca frontman has made a robust begin to live along with his new membership. After netting twice in 20 minutes on his debut, Suarez has continued to guide the road in his traditional belligerent trend and is La Liga’s joint-second main scorer, along with his tally of 5 objectives in 375 minutes giving him the very best goals-per-minute file within the league. Nevertheless, approaching the age of 34, Suarez is clearly solely a short-term measure and Atletico’s frustration at his unavailability on Saturday is tempered by the very fact they’ll nonetheless name upon a fast-rising star who has the group‘s future at his ft: Joao Felix.
The Portugal ahead, who turned 21 final weeks, was solely reasonably profitable throughout his first season with Atletico in 2019-20, scoring 9 objectives and by no means showing totally to earn the belief of demanding supervisor Diego Simeone. Within the opening weeks of the brand new marketing campaign, nevertheless, he has proven precisely why Atletico forked out £113m to signal him from Benfica by delivering a collection of spectacular performances. Felix’s effortlessly elegant technical expertise has all the time been apparent, however, he’s now additionally getting himself extra constantly concerned within the motion and offering a decisive closing product contained in the field.
With seven objectives and two assists for Atletico, he has almost matched the final season’s output already, and he has additionally shone on the worldwide stage by netting his first senior objectives. Worldwide team-mate and Liverpool ahead Diogo Jota has mentioned he believes Felix can finally turn into Cristiano Ronaldo’s long-term successor as the focus of Portugal’s assault, indicating the rising confidence that the younger star can fulfill his potential. Felix’s enhanced standing this season is mirrored within the reality his common variety of ball touches per sport has elevated from 40 to 57, and with eight objectives in his previous seven matches, this future famous person is in the very best type of his profession.
One other key component of Atletico’s ahead line is the unlikely determine of a person whose profession has been completely remodeled by an exhilarating night time at Anfield: Marcos Llorente. However, he’s now one among La Liga’s handiest forwards, lining up on the right-wing with the liberty to assault the field as typically as attainable.
Guardiola signed a two-year contract extension with Metropolis on Thursday and was instantly linked together with his ex-player, who got here near transferring final summer season. Messi’s contract ends subsequent summer season and he might signal pre-contract phrases with any membership exterior Spain from 1 January. Guardiola mentioned: “Messi is a Barcelona participant. I mentioned it on a thousand occasions. As a fan, I need Leo to complete there.” Argentine playmaker Messi had seemed set to affix Metropolis after placing in a switch request in August, just for Barcelona’s then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu to dam the switch.
Bartomeu then resigned in October however Messi’s future stays unsure. Paris St-Germain has additionally been linked with the 33-year-old, however each candidate within the Barcelona presidential election – to be held in January – has mentioned it’s a precedence for them to steer Messi to remain. “I’ve large gratitude for Barcelona and what they’ve completed for me,” mentioned Guardiola, who labored with Messi when managing the membership between 2008 and 2012.
Proper now Messi is a Barcelona participant and the switch market is in June and July. Guardiola’s new deal will take him to 2023 and can see him full seven seasons on the membership, so long as he spent in control of Barcelona and Bayern Munich mixed. Regardless of the apparent curiosity in him, the 49-year-old says he had no real interest in transferring anyplace else and would have stepped away from the sport once more, as he did when he left Barcelona in 2012, had a settlement with Metropolis not been reached.” I did not take into consideration anyplace else, simply to remain right here,” he mentioned. If we had felt it was sufficient, I’d have taken a break. “However now we have the sensation we nonetheless have many issues to do collectively. We wish to proceed what now we have completed within the earlier seasons.”
Llorente has registered eight objectives and 6 assists in 23 outings since Anfield and, within the 4-Zero win over Cadiz earlier than the worldwide break, he grew to become solely the second participant – after Lionel Messi – to file each a purpose and help in 4 completely different video games this yr. His particular person transformation from a defensive midfielder into an all-action ahead is a neat metaphor for a wider technique of change at Atletico as a result of, after years of accusations that he’s too unfavorable, Simeone now appears intent on creating a much more attack-minded group. Atletico is the second-highest scorers in La Liga with 17 objectives in seven video games, and their common of 4.86 photographs on track per sport is second solely to Barcelona.
Simeone has a variety of choices at his disposal and is actually not solely counting on Suarez for goalscoring. Suarez’s seemingly alternative this weekend is dynamic and versatile Argentine Angel Correa, whose 4 assists is the joint highest in La Liga, whereas Costa can also be anticipated to be accessible after lacking the previous month with hamstring damage. Felix and Llorente, although, would be the principal males. And sustaining their robust beginning by claiming a commanding victory over Barca could be the best solution to show that Atletico’s new model may result in nice issues.