Competition Focus

The lowdown on Atlético Madrid

Barça host Atlético Madrid this Sunday at 9.00pm CET in what is traditionally one of the biggest clashes of any Liga season.

Let’s take a closer look at the mattress-makers.


Founded by Basques living in the Spanish capital (hence the name and the red and white shirts modelled on those of Athletic Club) Atlético Madrid is one of the biggest clubs in the world. But competing in the same league as the even more gargantuan Real Madrid and FC Barcelona means trophies have been harder to come by than one would normally expect for a club of such stature.

They have won eleven leagues, including two this century, in 2014 and again last season. They have also won the Europa League three times in the last decade, while also reaching the Champions League final twice, suffering the pain of losing on both occasions to their city rivals Real.


There’s been a very clear pattern in games between Barça and Atlético over the years. Especially in the 1990s, these meetings were famed for being absolute humdingers, with goals flying in at both ends- There was an amazing average of 4.1 a game in that decade. And although the goal count of 3.8 per game was still high in the 2000s, the tradition of high-scoring drama whenever the sides clash has very much disappeared in more recent years.

Perhaps as a result of Diego Simeone’s ‘caution first’ approach, encounters in the 2010s were far more intense, tactical, low-scoring affairs, producing just 2.5 goals a game. And so far in 2020s, goals have been even rarer still, two per match, and hence just one goal per team. 

When Carrasco scored the only goal in Atlético’s win at the Wanda Metropolitano on 2020, it put an end to Barça’s astonishing run of 20 consecutive league encounters without losing to Atlético. There would instead be a run of four games in which Barça failed to win any.

Since Xavi as been at the helm, however, Barça have recovered their positive form against the red-and-whites. Thus far, we’ve had three games and three wins, the last one being a feisty affair at Spotify Camp Nou that produced 12 yellow cards and decided by a solitary goal from Ferran Torres.

Last five meetings (all La Liga)
23/04/23 (LIGA) Barça 1-0 Atlético
08/01/23 (LIGA) Atlético Madrid 0-1 Barça
06/02/22 (LIGA) Barça 4-2 Atlético Madrid
2/10/21 (LIGA) Atlético 2 Barça 0
8/5/21 (LIGA) Barça 0 Atlético 0


This year might be different. In contrast to Atlético Madrid’s typically conservative methods under Simeone, this season they are one of the highest scoring teams in Europe. The 45 goals scored across all competitions is the highest number ever at this stage of a season since the Argentinian took charge in 2011.

Naturally, the results have been coming too, the highlight being the only defeat that neighbours Real Madrid have suffered all season. Atlético are very much part of the group of four frontrunners in the title chase, especially when we note that they still have a game in hand against Sevilla that was postponed due to warnings of flash floods. With that game now to be played on December 23, they are now tied on points with Barça with third place, and ruing the recent trip to Las Palmas when an uncharacteristically stale performance resulted in a 2-1 defeat.

Things are coming along very nicely in Europe too. They entertain Lazio in the final game in Champions League Group E, but both themselves and the Italians are both more than safely through in a group that also included Feyenoord and Celtic.


Most capped internationals
Axel Witsel (Belgium, 130), Antoine Griezmann (France, 126); Memphis Depay (Netherlands, 88), José Giménez (Uruguay, 83); Stefan Savić (Montenegro, 72); Koke (Spain, 70); Álvaro Morata (Spain, 62), Jan Oblak (Slovenia, 62); Rodrigo de Paul (Argentina, 58); Çağlar Söyüncü (Turkey (55), César Azpilicueta (Spain, 44), Reinildo Mandava (Mozambique, 33), Nahuel Molina (Argentina, 30); Thomas Lemar (France, 27), Ángel Correa (Argentina, 23)

Barça connections
Antoine Griezmann
joined Barça from Atlético Madrid in 2019, and after making 74 appearances and scoring 22 goals, making him the club’s second highest scoring Frenchman of all time after Thierry Henry, he is now back at Atlético. He has scored twice against Barça in the past, both when playing for Real Sociedad, but has yet to do so when playing for Atlético.


Memphis Depay, now the second highest goalscorer of all item for the Dutch national team, joined Barça from Lyon and was in Catalonia for a seasons and a half from 2021–2023 before joining Atlético during the inter transfer window.


Best known for his over 100 caps, including three World Cups, for Argentina, Diego Simeone played a large part of his club football at Atlético. Following retirement, he managed a number of clubs in his home country plus Catania in Italy before being invited back to Atlético in 2011 as a replacement for the sacked Gregorio Manzano.

He has gone on to become the club’s most successful manager ever, leading them to two Liga and three Europa League titles, and to the final of the Champions League on two occasions. Simeone only won once at Camp Nou as a player, but never in the league, and as a coach remains winless away to Barça after 16 visits.

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