Griezmann and Atletico vie for Spanish title as they visit Barcelona and former teammate Joao Felix

Fri, Dec 1, 2023
Soccer News (AP)

Griezmann and Atletico vie for Spanish title as they visit Barcelona and former teammate Joao Felix

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Antoine Griezmann knows what Joao Felix is going through at Barcelona.

Like Felix now, Griezmann once tried to make the switch from Atletico Madrid to the flashier Barcelona. Griezmann, a World Cup winner with France, spent a disappointing spell from 2019-21 with the Catalan club before returning to Atletico.

After eventually winning over some fans miffed at him for having joined a direct rival, the 32-year-old Griezmann is having one of his most productive seasons ever. The creative forward, who stands out among coach Diego Simeone's workmanlike group, now has Atletico dreaming of another title run.

Atletico will play at Barcelona - and against Felix - on Sunday looking to beat the defending champions at Lluis Companys Olympic Stadium.

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Atletico enters the weekend even on points with Barcelona - both four behind Real Madrid and Girona at the top of the standings. But Atletico also has a game in hand against a struggling Sevilla team that is set to be played later this month, so a win would put the club in position to potentially take the lead in the Spanish league.

The game will also be the first time Atletico will face Felix since the Portugal playmaker switched clubs in the offseason.

When asked about Felix this week, Griezmann said his former teammate "had moments when he played well and worked hard, but you have to be consistent and maybe there was a moment when he got tired of it."

Felix responded in a separate interview on Movistar Plus television that he was not the only one to blame for the falling out between him and the club.

"Obviously, one can always have done things better, and things did not go well," he said. "But it was not just one person's fault, rather of several people."

GREAT GRIEZMANN

Griezmann has established himself as one of Atletico's all-time great players. He is three goals away from equaling Luis Aragones' club scoring record of 173 goals set between 1964-74.

But oddly enough, Griezmann's only major trophy with Atletico is the 2018 Europa League title. He was still playing for Real Sociedad when Simeone guided Atletico to the Spanish league title in 2014, and he was at Barcelona when Atletico won the league title again in 2021. His only title while at Barcelona was the 2021 Copa del Rey.

"I really want to win a league and will do everything I can to do so," Griezmann said this week.

Griezmann leads Atletico with 13 goals this season, including the Champions League. His nine goals in the Spanish league are second only to Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham.

Griezmann is also linking up well with striker Alvaro Morata. Griezmann scored once and Morata twice when Atletico beat Real Madrid 3-1 in September. That is still Madrid's only loss in 19 games in all competitions.

Griezmann pointed to the difficulties Barcelona has been having recently, as well as its trouble with injuries. Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has missed two games for Barcelona with back trouble, meaning backup Inaki Pena could start again against Atletico. Barcelona also recently lost key midfielder Gavi Paez to a season-ending knee injury.

"(A win) would be a big step forward but it would not be decisive, there is a long way still to go," Griezmman said. "Barca has doubts. So we will have to see how they decide to attack and defend, but I am sure we will arrive prepared for the game."

FELIX FACTOR

Felix has made a good start at his new club after he successfully pushed for Atletico to loan him out to Barcelona, which he joined on the last day of the transfer window - along with Joao Cancelo from Manchester City.

The two Joaos both scored as Barcelona defeated Porto 2-1 this week to secure its return to the knockout rounds of the Champions League after two consecutive group-stage eliminations.

Felix remains an Atletico player, but he seems ready to make his departure permanent. He spent the second half of last season on loan at Chelsea.

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