MADRID (AP) — Barcelona and Atlético Madrid will meet in the Spanish league on Saturday after both facing setbacks during the international break.
Atlético, which has a chance to open a nine-point lead over its Catalan rival, will be without forward Luis Suárez for the match at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Suárez would have been facing his old club for the first time but he tested positive for the coronavirus while on duty with Uruguay’s national team.
A second test on Wednesday was also positive, forcing him to remain in isolation. Newly signed Atlético midfielder Lucas Torreira also tested positive while with the Uruguayan national team and won’t be available either.
Barcelona, meanwhile, will be without Sergio Busquets, who was injured while playing with Spain’s national team.
There had been a lot of hype surrounding Suárez’s meeting with Barcelona, which let the striker go in the offseason after coach Ronald Koeman arrived to revamp the squad.
It’s not all negative for Atlético, however. Some of the team’s players did well with their national teams over the break, Jorge “Koke” Resurrección, Renan Lodi and João Félix among them.
Koke helped Spain rout Germany 6-0, while Lodi played in Brazil’s 2-0 win over Uruguay and Félix scored a goal in Portugal’s 3-2 victory over Croatia.
“We are going to arrive for this match very motivated,” Félix said. “We all know Barcelona, they like to keep possession and they will make us run more than usual. But if we play our game, we will have a great match. These are the matches that we like to play, against good teams, against great players.”
Barcelona also had several players out on international duty, including Lionel Messi with Argentina.
Messi returned to Spain on Wednesday and vented after being asked about the criticism directed at him by a former agent of teammate Antoine Griezmann.
“To be honest, I’m a bit tired of always being the problem for everything in this club,” Messi said.
He also complained about having to undergo an inspection by Spanish tax officials on the plane upon his arrival.
Real Sociedad leads the league with 20 points, three more than third-place Atlético and nine more than eighth-place Barcelona. Both Atlético and Barcelona have two games in hand, however.
Real Sociedad visits sixth-place Cádiz on Sunday, while second-place Villarreal, two points off the lead, hosts Real Madrid on Saturday.
Madrid is in fourth place with 16 points and has one game in hand. The defending champions also got some bad news during the international break when captain Sergio Ramos injured his right leg in Spain’s rout of Germany in the Nations League on Tuesday.
Madrid’s other central defender, Raphael Varane, was injured while playing for France.
In other matches this weekend, Sevilla hosts struggling Celta Vigo on Saturday, and Valencia visits Alavés on Sunday.
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni