Atletico Madrid’s match with Barcelona on Saturday pits two of LaLiga’s finest forwards against each other at the Wanda Metropolitano for the first time.
Antoine Griezmann has enjoyed life at Atletico’s new home this season but he will be up against it to stop Lionel Messi stealing the limelight when the leaders visit for their toughest domestic match of 2017-18 to date.
Messi is in spectacular form: he has scored 14 times in 11 games in all competitions for his club and he dragged Argentina into the World Cup this week with a hat-trick in their decisive game against Ecuador.
Griezmann has only managed three goals this term but they have all come in his last four appearances, since he returned from suspension on September 16.
Barca and Messi undoubtedly have the edge in a head-to-head battle but there are some striking similarities in his and Griezmann’s past performances when these teams meet.
Using Opta data, we take a look at their records…
GRIEZMANN: BETTER BEFORE ATLETICO
It is fair to say Barca are not Griezmann’s favourite opponents. On the 22 occasions he has faced them in senior football, he has only been on the winning side four times.
Interestingly, the France star had a better record with Real Sociedad before he joined Atletico in 2014.
The 26-year-old managed three goals and two assists in 10 appearances for the Basque club, winning three of those games and drawing another.
Although he has become one of the world’s best players since moving to the capital, good fortune in this fixture has not followed: he has three goals and one assist in 12 Atleti games against Barca, only one of which has ended in victory.
The active Atletico player with the best league record against the Catalans is Fernando Torres. The experienced striker has scored eight goals against them – the same as Cristiano Ronaldo.
MESSI: ON THE BRINK OF HISTORY
By contrast, Atleti are something of a favourite opponent for Messi, despite their reputation as a troublesome team.
The Argentina captain has scored 27 goals and registered four assists in 34 games with Diego Simeone’s side in all competitions, winning 21 times and losing just six.
He has netted 22 times in LaLiga against Atleti and two goals on Saturday will see them replace Sevilla as the team against whom Messi has scored the most in Spain’s top flight.
There is a good chance he will achieve this feat, too, if recent history is anything to go by: he has scored in five of the last six games against Atleti, including a late winner in their last meeting at the Vicente Calderon in February.
HOW DO THEY COMPARE?
In the 12 meetings between these sides since Griezmann joined, Messi has certainly had the upper hand.
He has scored seven goals to Griezmann’s three, created more chances (18 compared to 13), and has a vastly superior dribble success rate of 68 per cent compared to 12 per cent.
His involvement in general play is also, unsurprisingly, more marked. Messi has completed 574 passes, with an accuracy of 82 per cent; Griezmann has managed only 297, with a 74 per cent success rate.
A much more interesting fact is their markedly similar level of a cutting-edge in front of goal. Although Messi has scored more, he has done so from more attempts, and therefore has a shot conversion rate of 12.5 per cent – exactly the same as Griezmann’s.
What’s more, their average shooting accuracy across the 12 games is also identical, at 57.14 per cent. In other words, give either player half a chance and you should expect the net to bulge.