Barça are looking in good shape for tomorrow’s first all-or-nothing match of the season in the Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg at Atlético Madrid. Since losing to Real Sociedad at the start of the month Luis Enrique’s men have totted up six straight victories, scoring twenty three goals in the process while only conceding one. Leo Messi scored a late penalty rebound to earn a narrow 1-0 advantage in the first leg, and with away goals counting double in the cup Barça will be hoping to score at least once at the Calderón which would leave Atlético needing three goals to go through.
Despite the big 0-6 scoreline at Elche the performance was not so impressive. Maybe the number of changes affected the mechanisms of the team but until Elche were reduced to ten men we created very few chances against an undoubtedly inferior team. It was good to see youngsters Montoya, Bartra and Rafinha getting an opportunity in the team though all three had mediocre games which leaves one wondering how long it will be before one of the players coming through the ranks breaks into the first team and stays there. There is a lot of talk about La Masia but since Pedro and Busquets made the jump near the start of Pep Guardiola’s era we have seen plenty of promise coming through, but nobody who can claim a first-team place as his own.
For tomorrow’s challenge Luis Enriqué looks likely to rely on experience and return to the team that beat Atlético last week. Jeremy Mathieu has still not received medical clearance though he has trained well and looks likely to make the squad and he could prove useful against Atlético physical approach. Xavi and Pedro offer possible alternatives but the most probable line-up is: Ter Stegen, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Suarez and Neymar.
Atlético will be without the suspended Godin while Koke is facing a race to get fit after missing the 3-1 win over Rayo Vallecano on Saturday with a thigh strain. Coach Diego Simeone practiced on Monday with an XI made up of Oblak; Juanfran, Miranda, Giménez, Siqueira, Raul García, Mario Suárez, Gabi, Arda, Torres and Griezmann, and unless Koke returns in place of Raul Garcia that looks likely to be Atlético’s line-up.
The winner of the tie will face the winner of Villarreal and Getafe who play on Thursday with Villarreal defending a 1-0 win from the first leg. If Barça qualify, the first leg of the semi-final will be played at Camp Nou on February 11 with the second leg away from home on March 4.
Atlético: Oblak; Juanfran, Miranda, Giménez, Siqueira; Raul García, Mario Suárez, Gabi, Arda; Torres, Griezmann.
Barça: Ter Stegen; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar.
Prediction: Atlético 1 Barça 2
Date: Wednesday 28 January 2015. Kick-off 9 pm local time.