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Lionel Messi (left) and his FC Barcelona teammates know that getting on the scoreboard in Wednesday's road clash versus Atlético Madrid in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals is vital. | MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Following months of mid-week competition that has whittled what was once a vast sea of 83 Copa del Rey participants down to just four, the two biggest clubs still afloat square off twice in a six-day stretch, when a pair of domestic heavyweights, FC Barcelona and Atlético Madrid, go toe to toe in a bid to determine which one goes through to the May final.

The first leg kicks off on Wednesday night at 9.00pm CET at the Estadio Vicente Calderón in Madrid; the return leg is set for the same time next Tuesday night at Camp Nou in the Catalan capital.

Team News

At the end of a dizzying first month of 2017, which has zig-zagged back and forth between weekend La Liga fixtures and mid-week Copa del Rey clashes, Barça are about to face their biggest test thus far.

But they will not be at full strength, as midfield mainstays Andrés Iniesta (soleus) and Sergio Busquets (ankle) continue to recover from relatively minor injuries. Fullback Lucas Digne is also out with left-knee discomfort.

Barça wrapped up preparations for the match with a Tuesday morning training session, the first 15 minutes of which were broadcast in English on Facebook Live.

 

Following the workout, the Blaugrana coaching staff assembled the following squad list for the trip to Madrid:

Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen, Jordi Masip

Defenders: Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Aleix Vidal, Samuel Umtiti, Jérémy Mathieu

Midfielders: Ivan Rakitic, Denis Suárez, Arda Turan, Rafinha, André Gomes, Sergi Roberto

Strikers: Luis Suárez, Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr, Paco Alcácer

The Madrileños, meanwhile, are minus center back José María Giménez, who suffered an injury to his right adductor in minute 55 of Saturday’s scoreless stalemate at Alavés. 

Coach’s Verdict

FC Barcelona manager Luis Enrique Martínez was as explicit and forthright as ever during Tuesday’s pre-game press conference, when he painted an alluring picture of Wednesday’s foes, employing broad, colorful strokes of reverence splattered with the plain-old, black-and-white straight talk for which he has best become known.

“Atlético compete marvelously,” he said. “They are one of the best teams that there is in Europe.”

But despite the impending clash with a side he deems one of the most tenacious on the continent, Luis Enrique was steadfastly blunt when outlining how Barça were approaching the game.

“We are not going to change the way we play,” he said.

Atlético boss Diego Simeone, also known for his uncompromising candor and for gaining the steadfast devotion of every player who dons the Rojiblanca shirt, plucked away at the strings of sentiment in his pre-game press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

"Being in a semi-final for the sixth time fills me with pride, emotion, and happiness," he said. "I can’t imagine a better setting than the Calderón for this match."

Form Guide

FC Barcelona’s 5-game run of sublime form that recorded nothing but tallies in the victory column for a fortnight and a half — including twin Basque knockouts of Athletic Club and Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey — ground to an uneasy halt with a 1–1 draw at Real Betis on Sunday, when the late heroics of Luis Suárez averted what would have been an irksome defeat (Highlights below, Match Report).

Nevertheless, with Barça’s preternatural penchant for resilience one of the hallmarks of its recent success, the Catalans can be expected to have their game faces on come kick off Wednesday night.

Los Colchoneros, as Atlético are also known, got past Eibar, 5–2 on aggregate, in the last round, while drawing their last two matches in La Liga. Prior to that, they lost the last 16 second leg to Las Palmas at home, 3–2, although with a 2–0 first leg win on the road the week before, they still managed to squeeze through on aggregate, 4–3.  

History

Barça — the tournament’s two-time defending champions — and Atlético have faced off numerous times across all competitions, with Barça gaining the upper hand on plenty of occasions, especially at the Calderón, and this year’s tie should be as intriguing as any.

Barça and Atlético have met once this season, in Week 5 of La Liga on 21 September, when they played to a 1–1 tie at Camp Nou.

The last time the two battled in the Copa del Rey, however, came in the 2014/15 edition, when Barça vanquished Los Rojiblancos in the quarterfinals, en route to a Cup-winning victory over Athletic Club in that season's final, which was played at Camp Nou.

Live Coverage

No matter where you are in the world we have you covered. You can also listen to live play-by-play streamed in English on Radio Barça, as well as follow our exclusive, minute-by-minute updates on FC Barcelona's official English language Twitter account as the action unfolds. Don't miss it!

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