It’s round 2 of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and this time the Madrid side host the Blaugrana and would want to overturn the one goal deficit.
Barcelona took the aggregate lead in the tie thanks to a late Lionel Messi penalty, but otherwise the Madrid side were successful in keeping creative stars of Barca relatively quiet. Home advantage will play into the hands of Atletico but the Catalan side would be well aware that all they would need is a clean sheet to go through to the next round.
Battles will be fought all over the pitch but here are 3 key battles that we can look forward to.
Luis Suarez vs Jan Oblak
This match is definitely going to be a battle of the goalkeepers, with Jan Oblak having the unenviable job of trying to keep out the attacking thrust of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez. He was almost successful to do so in the first leg, and even guessed right for Messi’s penalty, but was unfortunate that the rebound fell so nicely for the goal to be scored. He made some pretty good saves in the game as well, and is fully justifying his price tag with his performances whenever given the chance.
The pressure, however, would be more on Suarez. Luis Suarez had a forgettable game in the first leg, especially after a great ball was delivered to him from Rakitic, but from 8 yards out he couldn’t convert the chance and instead skied the ball. Another similar chance had been presented to him where he could have been one on one with the goalkeeper, but his touch was a little too heavy and the chance went begging. However, he continued to work hard and make the runs throughout the game. Barcelona would look to him to convert some of those chances so that they can sail through to the next round comfortably.
Gerard Pique vs Fernando Torres
Fernando Torres also should have converted his chance, but he chose to pass the ball instead, giving enough time for a recovering Pique to intercept. While he normally has had about an hour’s time on the field every time he’s started on his return to Atletico, manager Simeone decided to take him off at halftime and go for more physical threats. Torres would be looking forward to the game to have a bigger impact and see his beloved Atleti go through to the next round. Whichever striker comes out on top could hold the key to the tie.
Pique, however, would be quietly confident of once again taming the former Liverpool man, just as he had him in his pocket in the first leg, forcing the Atletico manager to change at half time. Irrespective of whether Torres or Mandzukic starts, it would be up to Pique to help Barcelona keep the clean sheet that would see them through to the next round.
Lionel Messi vs Mario Suarez
For all the controversy surrounding Lionel Messi’s apparent unhappiness with Barcelona and Luis Enrique, the Argentina captain has been back in form and will once again go toe to toe with Atletico’s Mario Suarez. The Atletico Madrid player was able to keep the diminutive star quiet during the first leg, not letting him weave his patterns around the defence and breaking up play. However, Messi did have success against the same team in the league game and would be looking to impose a similar pressure on the midfield, ensuring that the outlets of Neymar and Suarez get ample service. Diego Simeone, though, will once again look to Suarez to produce another man of the match performance if they are to have any chance of progressing to the next round at the expense of Barcelona.