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Atletico Test of Barca’s Championship Credentials Amid Rumours of Rift

Celta de Vigo v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander
The moment when Celta Vigo’s Nolito should have condemned Barcelona to defeat moments after his side had drawn level with an 88th minute leveller.
Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Unbeaten since the resumption of empty football in Spain, Barcelona face a real test this evening with the visit of Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.

Normally three victories and five games unbeaten is acceptable form, but not in Spain when your great rival has won five on the bounce, the swing of four points giving them a two point advantage with only six games to play.

And in pressure situations like this the last side anyone wants to face is Simeone’s, which draws a lot of games, but don’t lose many.

Throw into the mix reports of a rift between coach Qique Setien and some senior players at the cub, and all doesn’t seem well at Barca.

Much has ben made of Lionel Messi ignoring instructions during the recent 2-2 draw with lowly Celta Vigo, while Suarez, scorer of both Barca goals challenged the coaching staff to analyze why the team keep dropping points on the road.

Barca have squandered 25 points on the road during this campaign, but only two at the Nou Camp.

Setien has admitted he does not always see eye-to-eye with his squad, but played down suggestions of a rift.

“It’s true you often have arguments with players as you do in everyday life and that’s nothing new,” said the former Real Betis coach.

“I was not an easy player to deal with and I understand this perfectly well. What we have to do is try to convince everyone that we have to defend a common idea.

“These are random incidents and I don’t give them too much importance. When you don’t win games everyone tries to stir the pot but this is the circus we’re in.

“We’re more concerned about the general atmosphere of the team and overall the relationship with the squad is good. It’s true that we don’t agree about certain things but I don’t think there’s any problem worth mentioning.”

Antoine Griezmann, on the bench for the draw with Celta at the weekend, could return against his former side, alongside Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi who once again goes in search of his 700th career goal (club and country).

Simeone’s side have been in good form since the restart, winning four on the bounce after drawing their first game back at Athletic Bilbao.