Champions League quarter-final 2nd leg preview: Atlético Madrid vs FC Barcelona

Barça 1-1 Atletico Madrid Neymar jump Champions League quarter final 2014If you are not excited by tomorrow night’s Champions League quarter-final second leg between Atlético Madrid and Barça you should probably call the doctor. Two sides with contrasting styles, that have been unable to defeat the other in four previous encounters this season, meet for a fifth time for the prize of a place in the Champions League semi-finals. Atlético have home advantage following last week’s 1-1 draw at Camp Nou and the hosts will be hoping to turn the Calderón into an authentic cauldron for the game.

A win or a high-scoring draw will see Barça reach a record seventh consecutive Champions League semi-final but it’s going to be a tremendous test for Tata Martino and his players. Barça may have the advantage of experience in the competition but this is likely to be balanced by a greater hunger from Diego Simeone’s team. That desire for victory tomorrow is well demonstrated by the message sent by Atlético’s radical supporters’ group El Frente Atlético:

“On Wednesday we face the most important match of the last few years with the possibility of reaching the Champions League semi-finals…..the Frente Atlético want us to meet the challenge. For this we must be the twelfth man, we must convert El Calderón into an infierno to culminate the great work from our players.  We have to be on top of every Barcelona possession, we will whistle and yell with all our strength and give everything just as our players do. If our players pressurize the opponent with their maximum effort, we will do the same.”

The support seems sure to inspire the home team but Barça must not be intimidated. The importance of the game should be enough to ensure the players are properly focused for the task while the recent wins at Real Madrid and Espanyol demonstrated Barça’s ability to withstand the pressure of a hostile crowd.

Atlético are likely to try and rush the Barça defence with a high press for the first fifteen minutes before sitting back in a more defensive formation while looking for quick counter-attacks. Barça should be aware of Atlético’s early rush and it might be advisable for the Barça defence to play it long to avoid losing the ball too close to goal. As the minutes pass Atlético will inevitably drop the high press and we should find a little more time on the ball to play our normal game.

Martino has taken all his available 21 players to Madrid for the game, leaving just the injured Valdés, Piqué, Dos Santos and Cuenca in Barcelona. From all accounts the Barça coach has decided again to sacrifice Pedro and Alexis for a big game, though there could be a change in positions as the team trained yesterday with Messi on the right of the attack, Fabregas as false nine and Neymar on the left, with Andrés Iniesta, who will make his 500th appearance in a Barça shirt tomorrow, moving back to midfield. While tactical adjustments are all very well, surely one of the most important aspects of this is to surprise the opponent. It’s getting a little worrying that the press so often seem to know Martino’s intentions before the game. Hopefully, he has a final surprise up his sleeve. Personally, I’d prefer to see the XI that were playing when Neymar scored last week’s equalizer which would mean leaving Fabregas out, with Messi as false nine and Alexis coming in on the right.

Atlético, of course, are waiting on the fitness of Diego Costa. Arda Turan will definitely miss the game due to a pelvic injury and his place will most likely be taken by Raul Garcia who missed the first leg through suspension. Costa’s chances don’t look too good either. He’s in the squad but didn’t train and Simeone stated today that the striker will only play if he’s at least at 90%, “if he’s fine he’ll play, if he’s more or less okay he’ll be on the bench, and if he’s not okay he won’t play at all.” Simeone also stated that Adrián López will come in if Costa doesn’t make it.

Barça 1-1 Atletico Madrid Messi Champions League quarter final 2014Whichever twenty-two players take to the field for the kick-off it’s going to be an incredibly tense 90 minutes. Barça have yet to take the lead in the four previous encounters this season with Atlético scoring first in the two score draws (Villa in the Supercopa 1st leg and Diego Ribas last week). The key tomorrow may well be to get the first goal, if Barça can get it then we will finally see Atlético forced to take the initiative, and hopefully Messi and Neymar can then take advantage of more space. We are going to have to be at our best for the challenge but I’m confident we can pull it off.

Match squads:

Atlético: Courtois, Aranzubia, Godín, Filipe, Alderweireld, Manquillo, Giménez, Juanfran, Insua, Miranda, Mario Suárez, Tiago, Koke, Raúl García, Cristian Rodríguez, Gabi, Diego Ribas, Sosa, Adrián, Villa, Diego Costa.

Barça: Pinto, Oier, Alves, Montoya, Bartra, Mascherano, Puyol, Adriano, Alba, Song, Busquets, Xavi, Sergi Roberto, Iniesta, Fabregas, Alexis, Pedro, Messi, Neymar, Tello, Afellay.

Possible teams:

Atlético: Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Filipe Luis; Raul Garcia, Gabi, Tiago, Koke; Adrian, Villa.

Barça: Pinto; Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Fabregas, Neymar.

Prediction: Atlético 1 Barça 2

Date: Wednesday 9 April 2014. kick-off 8.45 pm local time.

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11 Responses to Champions League quarter-final 2nd leg preview: Atlético Madrid vs FC Barcelona

  1. I like the prediction Nic. Madrid is “choking” in Dortmund. But we shouldn’t laugh yet…saving it for later!

  2. Costas says:

    Dude stop making predictions…seriously…

  3. I have the same prediction Atlético 1 : Barça 2. But it is not going to be easy at all. Waiting for another Messi magic.

    • Messi always shows up when he is needed. I do not expect anything less today…pound for pound (counting footballing brain muscle only) we are a better team. So, regardless of the result, we should be proud of this team. This was our year HORRIBILIS institutionally speaking. Good God, everything that could have gone wrong did yet we are stil in Europe’s (the world’s) elite 8. True, being second best is nothing to brag about, let alone 8th, but the odds against this team have daunting this year. I am neither nervous nor guarded. I am simply excited at the possibilities today for all lovers of the game. We wil have a game to remember for a long time…that’s for sure. FORCA!

  4. Barca4Life says:

    Can I ask you guys something? Did Messi even play?? What was he doing? He was missing all night long!!

    • Lol…speechless! It was great game if you are a fan of great defense or an Atletico fan. There is nothing to say besides accepting the loss and moving on to Liga and Cup. It looks like the rumor that Messi is saving himself for the world cup could be true. Usually though it does not work out in the end. I have been a fan of Argentina since 1984 but I have a hard time seeing them go to Brazil and win it there. I actually think that Spain will repeat but back to this game. I think a wholesale change is in order. So serious soul searching has to be done. Some players need to leave the club and some new ones need to come. But with Fifa’s ban only God knows what will happen. Sad we lost but I think we deserved it for all the wrong choices we’ve made when it came to signing quality, durable players in the past 4 years. Mascherano (a midfielder) and Bartra (a green horn) were our central defense. What do you expect!?! That having been said let us remain cool headed and wait for the season to be over so that we can see what the future holds. The only thing I would add is that Bartra has a great future at the club. I really like the fight in him.

  5. Caleb says:

    uck. that was lame.

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