So Barcelona are back on top, for a few hours at least, and it should put the pressure on Real Madrid going into their match at Villarreal later. They were rarely fluent, but were the better side in the second half, capitalising on Atletico’s defensive uncertainties and their first-half profligacy. Diego Simeone’s side really should have done more with their early pressure, when they bossed Barca physically and tactically. And they learnt – for the umpteenth time – that Messi can determine even those games in which he’s peripheral, as he was for the first hour or so here. This title race remains wide open, even if Atlético might end up focusing on the Champions League now. That’s all for me now. Thanks for your company and comments. Bye.
Full-time: Atletico Madrid 1-2 Barcelona
A late winner for Messi does it again. Another win for Barcelona over Atletico it is then. One that didn’t seem likely in the early stages.
90+3 mins: Rakitic, who’s impressed since coming on, uses up useful time with a meandering run down the right. But Atletico then win a free-kick for handball as the ball breaks clear. It comes to nothing.
90 mins +1: A long throw causes momentary panic in the Barca area before Pique clears as Torres closes in. Four minutes extra to be played
89 mins: Rafinha breaks up an Atletico attack with a superb tackle and feeds Rakitic to bring it forward, all of which allows Barca to dictate tempo and possession again. Until Griezmann cuts out Rafinha’s crossfield ball, and Atletico get forward and win a throw on the right.
88 mins: The Calderon is the quietest it’s been all afternoon, as Messi now has 20 goals in a season for the ninth year in a row. And all that on a quiet afternoon for him.
Goal! Atletico Madrid 1-2 Barcelona (Messi, 86)
He’s done it again. A free-kick into the box is headed back, Rakitic picks it up, plays it right to Umtitti who does well to pull it back for Messi in space. His first shot is blocked, but is second is sent low into the corner.
84 mins: Barca are finishing this game stronger, as Neymar, the pick of their attackers, dribbles from left to right 30 yards out but is smothered and Barcelona are forced back.
Another Barca sub: Gomes for Sergi Roberto
82 mins: Umtitti is almost caught out by a long ball forward from Gabi to Griezmann but recovers to close him out. Barca break, but Neymar fouls Vrjsaliko on the edge of the six-yard box. In the aftermath, Messi is booked for dissent.
80 mins … Pique’s delivery is headed away, and Atletico have a moment to calm down and enjoy possession. Torres is played in by a long ball down the left channel, it’s knocked back to Filipe Luis, but his deflected cross is easily gathered by the keeper.
78 mins: Digne, rather than Jordi Alba, comes on to replace Mathieu on the left side of defence for the visitors. They’re still sticking with that back three. Meanwhile, in actual football news, Suarez forges forward down the left, lays it off to Neymar, who wins a free-kick from Godin’s foul …
76 mins: Mathieu looks to have twisted an ankle, boots the ball out of play and hobbles off
73 mins: Fouls and bookings all over the place now: Correa’s first touch is a foul on Mathieu as he comes across him, a minute after Gabi sees yellow for a high tackle on Rakitic.
72 mins: Another Atletico sub: Correa for Gameiro,
72 mins: On the overall balance of play, Atletico deserve to be level, though their performance in this half is a shadow of what it was earlier.
71 mins: Barca sub – Rakitic for Iniesta.
Goal! Atletico Madrid 1-1 Barcelona (Godin, 70)
Atletico are level. Busquets fouls Filipe Luis on the left, and Koke’s free-kick is lightly glanced in by Godin’s header into the far corner
68 mins: Atletico substitution – Torres for Carrasco. Can his talismanic presence conjure something for the home side? Because suddenly they need it.
65 mins: Atletico look ragged suddenly, as summed up by a wild overhit cross from the left by Carrasco. Savic is then booked for a foul on Suarez.
Goal! Atletico Madrid 0-1 Barcelona (Rafinha, 64)
Would you believe it. Messi runs hard at the Barca defence, and plays it forward to Rafinha, his shot is blocked, but it comes back to Barca and Rafinha is played in on the right of the area after Suarez shot ricochets back to him and his shot low into the corner puts Barcelona in front! Who saw that coming?
62 mins: Griezmann links up well with Gameiro, playing him in on the right of the area but the shot is blocked for a corner. Barca clear.
“Hypothetically which of the two managers on field today would fit in Arsenal?” chin-strokes Ravi Raman. “I favour Simeone. What do you reckon?” It’s so not going to happen. Wenger will outlast everyone. As will the debate on his worth. It will never stop.
60 mins: … from it, Godin heads away for a throw, giving the referee a chance to ask Godin and Suarez to stop squabbling. Meanwhile Messi wins another corner when his shot is blocked by Savic.
59 mins: Barcelona have a rare spell of decent elegant possession, fbut it breaks down on the edge of the area when Messi’s threaded pass for Suarez is intercepted. Barcelona win it back and win a corner with a deflected cross of Godin …
56 mins: Another booking: Atletico’s Saul drags Neymar back by the touchline, is booked and is now suspended for a game.
55 mins: Godin climbs above Busquets to meet a high hanging cross and can only loop his header over from Vrsalijko’s cross.
54 mins: Booking: Busquets goes in crassly on Griezmann as Atletico try to break, taking his legs away with a minimum of subtlety. And into the book he goes.
53 mins: Carrasco fouls Messi in a dangerous area, 30-odd yards out. Neymar chips it out wide to the left where Pique wins a corner by the by-line. Griezmann wins the ball and clears.
51 mins: Griezmann gets clear and bears down on goal from the left but Ter Stegen, outstanding today, gets his angles right and blocks. Atletico come again and Gabi’s low shot is again well held by the keeper.
50 mins: Rafinha goes in hard on Godin with his arm up inside the Atletico area and concedes a free-kick but there have still been no bookings. Griezmann sends a lovely lay-off down the right channel for Gabi whose cross for Corrasco is headed away
49 mins: Barca chance! Suarez wins possession from Savic in Atletico’s half, lays it off to Messi who plays Suarez back in beautifully just to the left of goal, but he skews his shot well wide past the opposite post.
48 mins: Iniesta’s afternoon thus far is encapsualted by a square pass to Suarez that bounces over the Uruguayan’s head and out for a throw. All a bit scrappy so far this half.
46 mins: Atletico press high straight away even if it takes them a minute to get a touch of the ball, a long ball forward from Filipe Luis sends Gameiro sprinting clear but he’s flagged offisde. Tight call.
Barca get us going again.
The players are back out. No subs as far as I can see yet.
Elsewhere in this crazy world, Rob Smyth will be MBM-ing the living daylights out of the EFL Cup final. And you can join him here.
Half-time: Atlético Madrid 0-0 Barcelona
And bang on 45 minutes, the referee blows for the interval. Atlético should be in front, having unnerved Barça greatly in the first half with characteristic pressing and pressure, penning their opponents right back, but the visitors rallied towards the end of the half, and showed their menace. Either side could win this – it’s open and enthralling. Back in a bit. Don’t go anywhere.
43 mins: Save! Neymar’s corner to the back post is met forcefully by Pique’s header which is stopped bang on the line by Oblak, who’s already shown his worth on his return. Barca are angry that Savic’s apparent pull on Umtitti went unpunished.
42 mins: Diego Simeone is doing his looking-scarily-focused-and-angry thing on the touchline, as Barca continue to grow into the game. Pique Rafinha Iniesta work it forward neatly and find Messi, who lays it off to Sergi Roberto, who needlessly squanders possession. Barca win it back swiftly though, and enjoy another spell of passing, which ends with Rafinha turning his man on the right and winning a corner when his cross is turned behind.
38 mins: Superb save! Messi curls it towards the top corner, from left to right, and Oblak plucks it out of the air to turn it over. From the corner, the ball comes out to Umtitti, who slashes it high and wide. This is a damn fine game now.
36 mins: Gabi takes Neymar’s left leg away crudely just inside the Barca half – a measure of how far back the latter has been forced – and the Brazilian goes down. Barcelona work it forward, and win a throw, and after some rare interplay between Iniesta, Suarez and Messi, Savic floors Suarez with a clumsy leap, and Suarez knows how to win a free-kick with those sorts of challenges. And does.
34 mins: Barça still look capable on the counter, and Suarez goes close with a 20-yard drive over the bar as the visitors work it swiftly up the other end.
33 mins: A probing cross from the right finds Carrasco – again slipped clear of his man, Sergi Roberto, but his header back doesn’t quite find the onrushing Gameiro and Ter Stegen gathers. A minute later, he denies Gameiro again.
“Given his recent nightmares, you can see why Andre Gomes isn’t getting a game,” writes Charles Antaki, “but Rakitic must be fuming that Rafinha gets the nod, especially given his impersonation of The Invisible Man throughout the half so far.”
31 mins: Atletico win a corner after Koke larrups it high into the mixer, Ter Stegen comes out to gather in front of his uncertain defence and punches it behind. The corner comes to nothing.
30 mins: Out of nowhere, Barca get the ball in the net but it doesn’t count. Messi and Neymar combine effectively for the first time, the former playing in the latter who pulls it back for Messi to shoot, Oblak saves, and amid a scramble Suarez puts in the rebound but he’s penalised for handball. Still, THAT’S why Atletico could regret their failure to make their early dominance count.
27 mins: Home fans might be getting a bit anxious that their team haven’t made any of this counts, as another shot is scuffed wide.
26 mins: Suarez, Messi and Neymar aren’t linking up with each other at all, bar the odd individual run into a cul-de-sac. While up the other end, Griezmann lets loose a thundering 25-yard drive that’s tipped over brilliantly by Ter Stegen.
23 mins: Barca’s intricate passing game currently consists of the under-the-cosh back three knocking it about a bit before it all coming to nothing in the middle of the park. They’re being pressed right back. It finished 4-0 to Tottenham by the way.
21 mins: Atletico are finding some productive outlets on the left-hand side, with Filipe Luis, Corrasco and Saul working some neat patterns, but they can’t get a cross in on this occasion.
19 mins: Nice work on the left between Corrasco and Filipe Luis and the latter’s searching cross is well headed away by Busquets as Koke challenges. From the subsequent corner, Barca clear, but not for long, as Carrasco burrows towards goal and wins another corner. Atletico are well on top here.
17 mins: Another chance, Umtitti makes a bit of a hash of a clearance, presenting Gameiro with a chance from eight yards or so out, but his low accurate shot is saved again. This Barca back three does not look sure of itself when pressed.
15 mins: Atletico spurn another chance as Carrasco is found clear on the left of the area again but seemingly unaware of the space he’s in, volleys back to Gabi whose shot is firm but straight at Ter Stegen.
13 mins: Neymar, who’s been forced deep wide on the left thus far, embarks on a determined stop-start kind of run down the left but his low ball into the box is cleared. Atletico counter, but Pique shields from Gameiro’s run expertly and the danger is cleared
11 mins: There’s some properly feisty challenges going on out there, with Neymar and Vrsaliko getting stuck in to each other on the home side’s right touchline but Barca win a throw and clear.
8 mins: Dogged work from Suarez, who wins possession on a 50-50 just inside the home side’s half, drives forward past two men, including Savic who tugs at his shirt, before finding Messi, who finds room 25 yards out but cracks it too high over the bar.
7 mins: Suarez wins Barca a free-kick on the right after Godin bundles him over. Messi’s delivery is poor though, floated too high and way over the head of Pique coming in at the far post.
5 mins: Atletico win a corner, Umtitti blunders inside the box, lets the ball run out to Godin who belts it high over the bar. Should have done better, but an encouraging start for the home side.
4 mins: Atletico chance! A nice flowing move down the right starts with Gameiro, who knocks it back for the cross to come in to Carrasco at the far post, who ghosts clear of his man but makes a hash of his chance from six yards out
2 mins: Barcelona have the first prolonged spell of possession, looking in more of a 3-4-3 shape. Atletico press high up, and get the ball back when Messi is dispossessed, but a long ball forward comes to nowt.
And they’re off. The home side get us underway. Atletico in their red and white whith blue, Barça in their almost-now-traditional turquoisey away kit. What is it about teams with particularly iconic home kits that they tend to have notably ugly change strips?
The players are out, and this magnificent old arena is rammed. Can Atlético break their dismal recent run against Barça? This is going to be as good a chance as any.
Meanwhile, back in the richest league in the world, Spurs seem to have let up a touch in the second half against Stoke – just their four first-half goals separate the sides at White Hart Lane. The closing stages can be dipped into here:
Fun facts: The Sky punditry team point out that Luis Enrique has used 16 different starting formations in midfield this season; so whatever else, it’s not been the instinctively smooth, well-oiled machine we’ve come to expect.
As pointed out on the Twitters:
The teams are in
Reinforcements at the back for Atléti, with Oblak back and Diego Godín making his first appearance since the Copa del Rey semi loss to Barça. The visitors give Rafinha the nod in midfield ahead of Rakitic, who drops back to the bench. It’s the first time Barcelona have fielded Rafinha, Busquets and Iniesta in midfield together.
Atlético Madrid: Oblak; Vrsaljko, Godín, Savic, Filipe Luis, Gabi, Koke, Saul, Carrasco, Griezmann, Gameiro. Subs: Moya, Gimenez, Lucas, Thomas, Gaitan, Torres, Correa.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; S Roberto, Umtiti, Mathieu, Piqué, Rafinha, Busquets, Iniesta, L Suárez, Messi, Neymar. Subs: Cillessen, Rakitic, D Suárez, Alcácer, Alba, Dign, Gomes
Afternoon everyone. It’s getting tight at the top, with Sevilla on the march and the leaders Real Madrid still looking the best bet for the title, while both this afternoon’s sides are also chock-full of the talent and capacity to nick it. But despite Barça edging a fiery Copa del Rey tie between them a couple of weeks back, Atlético will go into this one feeling rather more chipper, having hit four in their past two matches – a 4-1 swatting aside of Sporting Gijón following an emphatic first-leg Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen. Barcelona, by contrast, probably don’t want to talk about Big Cup too much, having been schooled so brutally by PSG and having settled few nerves with the uncertain manner in which they scrambled a late win over Leganés last week.
They are, however, six points clear of fourth-placed Atlético, who need to make their recent swagger count here and win to retain realistic hopes of the title. They’ve picked a good time to play Barcelona though, a team whose stumbles are never mere blips in form, but pored over extensively as existential crises, as Long Dark Nights Of The Soul. Luis Enrique might be having a few of those at the moment, as the pressure mounts. How will he and they cope in the cauldron of the Calderón? It’s their last visit there too, with Atlético leaving the charismatic old ground for the evocatively named new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Hurrah for modern football.
Kick-off 3.15pm GMT.