Camp Now, Barcelona
April 01, 2014; 19:45 BST
FC Barcelona host Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou on Tuesday in the first leg of the highly anticipated Champions League quarter-final clash. The last three meetings between these two sides have ended in a draw, but the Catalan giants have had the better of Atletico Madrid historically. In fact the last win for Atletico against Barcelona came in 2010 when Simao and Diego Forlan scored for the home side.
But there has been nothing between these two sides this season in the La Liga and Atletico Madrid are currently leading the league table with a one-point gap over Barcelona in second place. Although Barcelona are the favorites on paper to win this tie, especially with the potential absence of Diego Costa due to an injury, but they will have to fight hard for every moment on the pitch as Deigo Simeone has installed a lot of spirit and belief, after from quality, into the side. In fact an Atletico Madrid win over Barcelona would perhaps no longer be considered as an upset, that is how far they have progressed this season.
This is sure to be one of the most exciting and close quarter-final ties this season.
Team news and tactics
Gerardo Martino does have few injury concerns to contain with ahead of this game. Victor Valdes, who picked up a bad injury in the match against Celta Vigo earlier this month, will remain out of action for a long time, while Isaac Cuenca is the other long term injury concern. There are also doubts about the fitness of Carles Puyol, Martin Montoya and Pedro ahead of this game.
Puyol, whose last appearance was in the 4-1 win over Almeria earlier this month, trained separately from the rest of the first team on Monday morning and is unlikely to make an appearance in the first leg of this tie. Pedro, who missed training on Sunday due to “tummy bug”, took part in full training on Monday along with Alex Song, who returns to the squad after recovering from his calf injury. But neither of the duo is expected to feature in the starting line-up against Atletico.
Gerardo Martino is expected to make two changes to the line-up that started in the 0-1 win over Espanyol. Alexis Sanchez, who appeared as a substitute in that game, will start in place of Pedro in the attack, while Cesc Fabregas, who is one booking away from receiving a suspension, will be replaced by Andres Iniesta in the midfield.
Expected starting line-up (4-3-3): Pinto (GK); Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Sanchez, Messi, Neymar
The biggest concerns for Diego Simeone ahead of this game in the potential absence of his star striker Diego Costa. The 25-year-old, who has seven goals in his five appearances in the Champions League so far this season, was pulled out of Monday’s training session with a knee injury. The extent of his injury is yet to be known, but Diego Simeone reckons it is unlikely that the Spanish international will start against Barcelona in the first leg of this tie.
Javier Manquillo, whose last appearance was in the 0-2 loss against Real Madrid last month in the Copa del Rey, is still struggling with his fitness and it would still be long before he returns to first team action. Raul Garcia is suspended for the first leg and it will be interesting to see Simeone’s team selection with two of his forwards unavailable for this game.
Simeone is expected to make three changes to the line-up he started with at the weekend. He is expected to switch back to a more conventional 4-2-3-1 formation with a bit shortage of forwards in the squad presently. This means David Villa with lead the line-upfront with Arda Turan, who started on the bench against Athletic Bilbao, Diego and Koke supporting him in attack. Gabi and Mario Suarez will form the pivot ahead of the defence.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Courtois (GK); Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Luis; Suarez, Gabi; Koke, Diego, Turan; Villa
Players to watch-out for: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona); David Villa (Atletico Madrid)
Prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Atletico Madrid