FC Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are no strangers to each other. Tonight at 8.45pm CET, the two clubs lying first and second in La Liga meet in the last eight of the Champions League for the second time in three seasons. We take a look at some of the key issues going into an enticing game at the Camp Nou.
Half a year has passed since Barça last went into a game on the back of a loss. Putting the 2-1 home defeat in the Clásico behind them will be a test of the team’s character, as if a Champions League quarter final wasn’t a tough enough prospect on its own.
[[DES_1]]Saturday’s result has certainly got the pundits talking. Many believe tiredness to be the reason, including the suggestion that long trips to South America may have been to blame for none of the famous trident scoring for the first time in 90 days.
But time and time again in the past, these players have shown that they have got what it takes to overcome setbacks like these. Now is the time to show that the Real Madrid defeat was nothing more than a blip. Any team can have the occasional off-day, even if that's only once every 40 matches!
Luis Enrique has ‘blind faith’ that his team will respond the right way. “It’s been so long that we’ve forgotten what it is like to lose” he said on Monday. “Let’s hope it serves as a stimulus to win again.”
Games between Barça and Atlético were once famed for being high-scoring, open-ended affairs, but quite the reverse has been the case in the last two or three years. Only one of the last 13 meetings between the sides has been decided by a margin of more than one goal. Luis Enrique has won all five battles to date with Diego Simeone, but each time by the narrowest of margins.
Barça’s attack-minded passing game and Atlético’s famously mean defence (which has leaked an average of less than a half a goal per game in the league this season) tend to cancel each other out for large spells of their encounters, and these are games where even the smallest lapse of concentration can prove costly.
While Barça nurse the wounds of defeat to Real Madrid, Atlético recovered from a dismal defeat in Gijón by trouncing Real Betis 5-1 at the weekend. Regaining Stefan Savic and Diego Godín in the centre of defence is an added bonus, and the latter will have a point to prove after getting himself sent off when these sides met in La Liga in January.
Atlético are likely to seek damage limitation at the Camp Nou, with an eye on using home advantage in the second leg to see them through to the semi-finals.