In a week in which he's scored four goals for Chelsea, it seems appropriate to recall that there was a time when Fernando Torres used to terrorise Barcelona. I've never seen any striker so regularly give nightmares to Carles Puyol -- devastating in pace, power and leap against a defender who still uses all three of these facets to the maximum and was then several years younger and stronger.
The Calderon became a place of horror for Barca during that spell, but that's not my point.
So potent was the Torres era that from his La Liga debut at the Camp Nou in 2002 until he joined Liverpool in 2007, El Nino registered two wins, two draws and one measly defeat there. The two performances that stand out for their explosive impact were the 2-0 win (both goals for Torres) and the 3-1 victory (during which he also scored a double) in February of 2005 and 2006.
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Don't forget, these were years during which Barca -- led by Frank Rijkaard and with Deco and Ronaldinho playing magnificently -- dominated Spain with back-to-back titles and also won the Champions League, defeating Chelsea, Milan and Arsenal en route.
What the Torres-driven Atletico achieved back then is not to be underestimated.
However, no one, least of all Torres, can have imagined the red-and-white carnage that would follow his departure. Over the past five years, there have been six of these classic Spanish meetings between the Catalans and the Madrilenos at the Camp Nou, if you include the 2009 Copa del Rey tie. Barca have won all six and the aggregate score in that time is an overwhelming, embarrassing 24-4 in favour of the sides coached by Rijkaard and Guardiola.
Remember that, over this period, Atletico have twice won a pair of European trophies -- the UEFA Europa Leagues of 2010 and 2012 and the UEFA Supercups (against Inter and Chelsea) in each of those years. In those seasons, Barca beat them 5-2 and 5-0.
It's a coincidence that Los Colchoneros also lost the 2010 Copa del Rey final to Sevilla at the Camp Nou.
Barca weren't involved in that heady, noisy, wonderful night, but only those who choose to watch football on television will fail to understand the significance.
You pay to travel there with your club, you get the coldest, highest, most exposed benches in the entire colossal stadium, you see your team drubbed, you spend several hours getting home, beaten, morale in tatters -- miserable.
Then the cup final comes along, it's a day out, Seville are a rival not significantly ahead of you. So you arrive with confidence in turbo-overdrive.
Then the curse of the Camp Nou hits again, goals from Diego Capel and Jesus Navas mean glory and celebrations for the Andalusians while the red-and-white travelling fans (perhaps even the staff and players) grow to hate and fear that Les Corts neighbourhood of Barcelona.
There have been nights amid this painful sequence when Atletico have been made to look like rag dolls in the teeth of a hungry mastiff.
Petitions from Amnesty International and the Red Cross have followed.
And during all this, you may not be surprised to learn, Atletico have suffered at the hands of a chief torturer.
Barca's 24 goals have come from 12 different players, but only Samuel Eto'o and Eidur Gudjohnsen, other than the chief torturer, have scored more than once.
Lionel Andres Messi, however, has put 10 past Christian Abbiati, Gregory Coupet, Roberto, David De Gea and Thibaut Courtois. One standout night, when Messi no doubt soured Cristiano Ronaldo's birthday celebrations by scoring a hat trick in Barca's 3-0 win against the Colchoneros in February 2011, is representative of the way in which he's used this meeting to underline how exceptional he is.
Pep Guardiola's team, which would go on to win the title and the Champions League, played patchily enough for the coach to warn: "If we perform like that in the cup final [against Madrid] we'll lose it." (They did.) But given that Messi's triple saved their bacon, Guardiola added words that are true today.
"We wouldn't be what we are without Messi," he said. "We'd be a really good team, we’d win lots of matches but we'd lose this ability to resolve difficult games where we are under pressure. He's a standout example for everyone -- just look at the defensive work he did to chase back and defend against Kun Aguero. It's an indication of his mentality that after three years of me pushing this team and demanding more, he's still working as hard in the defensive sense as he is to win us games."
It was the night when Barcelona beat Real Madrid's all-time record (set in 1960-61) of 15 straight la Liga victories. Barca's 16th consecutive victory meant they'd scored 60 and conceded six in that run, compared to Madrid's 56 and eight, with Messi scoring 21 times compared to Alfredo Di Stefano, Madrid's magician of the age, who'd scored 16 times in Los Blancos' run of 15 wins.
The Atletico coach that night, Quique Sanchez Flores (Di Stefano's godson, no less) added: "Everyone who saw Alfredo play says that he utterly revolutionised football with his style and his influence on matches. Well, Messi is the Di Stefano of the 21st century and Leo knows enough about football to understand what an honour that comparison is."
And so to the bittersweet subject of Radamel Falcao.
If Torres' departure helped tip Atletico into a chasm of despair when they visit the Camp Nou, at least he left two wins, two draws and only one defeat behind during his five years in the Primera Division. Falcao is certainly at the level Torres was when he left, quite probably above it.
His five-goal haul against Deportivo La Coruna last weekend came just at the right time to fortify Atletico's ambition, confidence and threat before visiting the league leaders.
However, his second assault on the Camp Nou (he was snuffed out last year in the 5-0 defeat) might sadly be his last.
The Colombian's career, perhaps particularly in Europe, has been marked by his appetite for the big moment. With Porto, he scored five times in the 2011 Europa League semifinal win over Villarreal, and scored the only goal in the final victory over Braga. As soon as he hit Atletico, he scored in his first derby match against Madrid, put two past Valencia in the 2012 Europa League semifinal and added a further two in the devastating win over Athletic Club in the final.
Ironically for Atletico, it was his destruction of European champions Chelsea, a hat trick in a 4-1 win, in the Supercup last August which means he's number one on the London club’s transfer menu right now -- whether to join or replace Fernando Torres is a moot point.
Whether Atletico Madrid wholly own Falcao, or, as is widely supposed, he is part owned by investors, you'd like to imagine that everyone benefits by resisting the lure of the winter transfer market.
However, it's a fact that if a club is willing to part with 60 million euros, Falcao’s specific buy-out clause, then Atletico are powerless to stop him leaving. In that case, only his will to stay would be enough to prevent departure.
Thus with Manchester City, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain all notably determined to buy him, it's hard to see Falcao staying beyond the end of this season.
The marketplace is buzzing with "confirmation" that Atletico are already assessing their chances of replacing him with Edin Dzeko, Edinson Cavani or Falcao's international strike-partner Jackson Martinez.
Just like his performance at the Camp Nou last season, Falcao's recent shot at reigning champions Real Madrid a couple of weeks ago was a damp squib. Although he had their only real chance, both he and his usually irrepressible team were easy to contain.
What all neutrals will hope is that as painful as that limp 2-0 loss to Jose Mourinho's side was, perhaps it liberated a little bit of pressure from Atletico.
Expectation is lower, they still trail league leader Barca by only six points, and perhaps the ruthless nature of the display against Depo indicates that they are spurred on by the painful memory of the derby defeat.
The points and league positions are the vital matters but, naturally, we will all be drawn by comparisons between Falcao and Messi. Each man is so impressive in his own way that it's inevitable.
They go way back, these two. Their first battle was in January 2005 when Falcao's goal in a 1-1 draw ended Argentina's 299 minutes without conceding in the South American U-20 championship in which Messi's team was competitive but couldn't pip Falcao's Colombia, the tournament winners.
Revenge was Messi's on June 22 that year when he scored and Argentina beat Falcao’s Colombia 2-1 en route to winning the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Holland.
At international level, the two men have been on opposing sides relatively rarely -- a 1-0 win for Argentina in June 2009 and last summer's 0-0 draw in a Copa America Group A meeting.
So Messi will have his rival in his sights, and Barca are dead set on reaching the Christmas break, only three games away now, without dropping points to either of their main pursuers.
Falcao, if I can be so bold, owes Atletico something big if this is to be his second and final shot at stealing the glory for them at the Camp Nou, particularly if he eventually chooses to follow the lead of Raul and Hugo Sanchez and commit the “treachery” of crossing the city to sign for Madrid.
It's a decent bet that the ritual humiliations suffered in the seasons since Torres’ departure shouldn’t be repeated on Sunday night. But are Atletico strong enough mentally, sufficiently capable of focusing for 90-plus minutes and defensively rigid enough to withstand Tito Vilanova's record-breaking side?
Not without the real Radamel Falcao showing up like he did last week. It promises to be one of the best nights of this wonderful season.