Barcelona and Atletico Madrid head into their Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday on the back of contrasting weekends in La Liga’s title race.
Champions Barca lost 2-1 to bitter rivals Real Madrid in El Clasico on Saturday, meaning their lead at the summit was cut to six points as a result of second-placed Atleti storming to a 5-1 win over Real Betis.
Atletico remain title outsiders but will be buoyed by the memory of overcoming Barcelona at the same stage in the Champions League two seasons ago before going on to claim Liga glory.
“For me, this game [Clasico] no longer exists,” said Luis Enrique, whose Barcelona side saw a phenomenal 39-match unbeaten run come to an end against 10-man Madrid.
“There is no pain or anything you can think of. We had many games without defeat, but defeat also teaches you things.
“All titles have difficulty and my players knew that. Going 39 games unbeaten means little if you don’t win titles at the end of the season.
“[Atletico] will put on a lot of pressure and make it tough for us.”
Luis Enrique at least avoided any fresh injury concerns in El Clasico, meaning former Atletico midfielder Arda Turan might have to be content with a place on the bench once more.
Turan entered the fray with Saturday’s match all square at 1-1 but the coach offered backing to his Turkish international after Barca struggled to control the late midfield battle.
“Ivan [Rakitic] had a card and that was enough of a risk,” Luis Enrique explained. “Arda could give us even more between the lines. He has been unlucky because he entered when the game was pretty crazy.”
Opposite number Diego Simeone was able to make less taxing substitutions as Betis were put to the sword, and he confirmed Fernando Torres would start against Barca having opened the scoring on Saturday.
“Every game we’ve played against them has been different,” said Simeone, who will assess Saul Niguez after the midfielder was substituted with a knock to his ankle on Saturday.
“We’re preparing ourselves as well as we can so the game goes the way we want it to.”
Atletico were unbeaten in six matches against Barcelona during their glorious 2013-14 campaign but have lost on their previous three visits to Camp Nou.
Luis Enrique’s men edged each of this season’s Liga encounters 2-1, with Lionel Messi scoring on both occasions.
Should the mercurial Argentinian repeat the feat on Tuesday he will register his 500th Barcelona goal.
Atletico centre-backs Diego Godin and Stefan Savic will be available to prevent Messi from doing so, having returned to training on Sunday following a hamstring strain and a nail infection respectively.
Youngsters Lucas Hernandez and Nacho Monsalve – the latter on debut – lined up at centre-back against Betis.
Belgium international Yannick Carrasco will also come back into Simeone’s plans having overcome an ankle complaint, although Luciano Vietto missed training on Sunday due to illness.
Key Opta stats
– Barcelona have won the past six games between the sides in all competitions. A seventh win would be a new record in their head-to-head history with Atletico.
– Barcelona’s clean sheet against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in April 2011 is their only shutout in European games against Spanish opposition.
– Atletico have never scored more than one goal in each of their eight European encounters with Spanish clubs.
– Atletico’s quarter-final win in 2014 marked the only occasion in the past eight years when Barca have failed to reach the Champions League semi-finals.
– Luis Enrique’s men are unbeaten in the Champions League this season and the coach has won all 10 of his Camp Nou home games in the competition.
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