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FC Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are first and second in La Liga, and they’re also direct rivals in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League. We take a look at what is being said in the streets of Barcelona and Madrid in the build-up to a much-anticipated second leg clash at the Vicente Calderón.
Barça lead 2-1, but history shows that there’s still some work to do. In the last twenty years, 21 Champions League knockout games have ended with the home team winning the first leg by that score, but in practically half of those cases (10) it was the team that hosted the second leg that ended up progressing. Atlético’s away goal means that a 1-0 win would be enough for them. So Diego Simeone’s ideal scenario would probably be to get an early goal and then use the meanest defence in La Liga to its full effect.
A draw would do the trick for Barça, but that’s not the Luis Enrique way. He’ll want his team to go for goals, and with good reason. Barça score once and Atlético will need two just to take the game into extra time. Barça score twice, and Atlético will need to score four.
Happy hunting ground
The source of those goals could be Brazilian. Neymar has a fine record at the Calderón, where he scored on his Barça debut in the 2013 Spanish Super Cup, just six minutes after coming on as a substitute.
He’s scored four times in his last six visits to Atlético. In fact, those are four of the last seven goals that Barça have scored there. Lightning can strike twice in the same place, and let’s hope it strikes again on Wednesday night.
And we can also take very good heart from Barça’s perfect record against the mattress-makers since Luis Enrique has been in charge. Seven wins out of seven so far. And the ‘trident’ have risen to the occasion. Thirteen of the fourteen goals in those games have been scored by Leo Messi (5), Neymar (4) and Luis Suárez (4). The only exception was a Miranda own goal.
That said, Barça have never been able to run riot. Other than the 3-1 win in Luis Enrique’s first confrontation with Diego Simeone, all of the other encounters have been decided by a single goal. Wednesday’s game is likely to be just as nerve-racking.
With Rafinha and Vermaelen added to Barça’s injury list, Luis Enrique’s squad of nineteen picked itself for this game, because that’s the number of players he has available. Atlético, meanwhile, have an almost full strength squad, but striker Fernando Torres is suspended after being red-carded in the first leg.
‘El Niño’ has had a knack for causing trouble for Barça over the years, so his absence is a point in Barça’s favour, while Atlético’s top scorer in Europe this year, Antoine Griezmann, has never scored for them against the Catalans (although he did do so three times in his days at Real Sociedad).
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