Atletico Madrid are in the same ferocious form that helped them win La Liga in 2014 and they return to the scene of that famous triumph on Sunday, needing to win at unbeaten table-toppers Barcelona to boost their hopes of another title triumph.
Diego Simeone’s side have overcome a difficult start to the campaign, which saw them eliminated from the Champions League, by winning eight games in a row in all competitions.
In their last two league outings, they thrashed Sevilla 5-2 and Leganes 4-0 and sit on 61 points after 26 games.
That’s the same points total at this stage of the season as when they rattled their far richer rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona to win the league four years ago, clinching the title with a 1-1 draw at the Nou Camp.
Atletico have not won away at Barca since 2006, however, and no team in La Liga or the Champions League has been able to beat Ernesto Valverde’s side this season.
Atletico currently trail Barca by four points in the standings, although the Catalans can restore their advantage to seven if they beat Las Palmas on Thursday.
Victory against Diego Simeone’s side too would give them a seemingly unassailable 10-point lead at the top with 11 games remaining.
The Catalans blitzed a usually solid Girona side 6-1 in their last Liga outing as record signing Philippe Coutinho finally showed he can dovetail with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.
That has set up a potentially thrilling duel between Barca and Atletico’s attacks on Sunday.
Messi and Suarez are the top two scorers in the league with 22 and 20 goals respectively but they have recently had competition from the free-scoring Antoine Griezmann and his new strike partner Diego Costa.
France international Griezmann has scored seven goals in his last two games, hitting all four against Leganes and a hat-trick against Sevilla, roaring back to life after a quiet early campaign with the help of the aggression and power of Costa.
Costa may have only scored three league goals since returning to Atletico in January but it is the former Chelsea man’s persistent pressing and energy which has made him the perfect partner for Griezmann and helped his side to thrive.
“Costa doesn’t just improve Griezmann, he improves the whole team because of everything he transmits, and that’s what we’re seeing now,” Simeone told reporters after the win over Leganes.
“Griezmann has been at this level in previous seasons and now the whole team is helping him perform as he is now. Now we have to prepare in the best way possible to face Barcelona, who have won everything and still haven’t lost a game.”