Lionel Messi, Barcelona ready for Atletico Madrid challenge after difficult international break

After a seemingly endless international break full of off-the-pitch drama, Barcelona will be back in action in La Liga when they meet the ultra-competitive Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon on Saturday. With both teams prepared to do whatever it takes to maintain the perfect starts to their domestic league campaigns, expect sparks to fly once again between two of the most dominant powers in Spanish football.

While facing the no-nonsense side managed by Diego Simeone is always a challenge, Luis Enrique's lack of time to prepare the match appropriately because of 14 players being absent on international duty for the past 10 days will inevitably hurt the Blaugranas' chances in the Spanish capital. Although Ivan Rakitic was the only international who returned to Barcelona without a win, the Asturian manager would have preferred to have his regular starters working alongside him during the week instead.

Nobody can deny that the current Liga and European champions, lead by the magical Lionel Messi, are the favourites going into the game because of the strength of the starting XI that Luis Enrique will be able to field at the Calderon. The Blaugranas, currently on a 16-game unbeaten streak in the league, are not prepared to waste a golden chance to make it 11 wins in their last 12 road games.

Read the full "Messi, Pique return to the comforts of Barca after trying international break" column by Francesc Tomas here.