Sealing the passage to the Champions League semi-finals is an absolute must for Luis Enrique’s Barcelona, who look to improve their stuttering form during their visit to Vicente Calderon against the in-form Atletico Madrid.
Diego Simeone’s men will be looking for a revenge after a much talked-about first leg that was marked by controversial refereeing at both sides of the pitch. Fernando Torres went from hero to zero in the matter of minutes as he first scored the opening goal before being sent off for a reckless tackle on Sergio Busquets. Much to his own admission, Fernando Torres’ foolish challenge left Atletico Madrid in agony and disbelief over Felix Brych’s decision to leave Luis Suarez on the pitch following a couple of red card offences. Diego Simeone is on a mission. He wants to “annoy” people by progressing to the last four and will head into the return leg in a buoyant mood coming off from a 3-1 weekend victory over Espanyol. Griezmann continued his stellar performances for Rojiblancos and will once again be the one to watch on Wednesday night. Defensively tight unit as they are, Atletico Madrid will look to lock down Barcelona key out-of-form wizards and try to build up on their away goal that gives Rojiblancos plenty of reason to feel optimistic ahead of the crucial match in the season.
Fernando Torres is suspended following his dismissal at Camp Nou last week, while Tiago Mendes is still struggling with injury.
Atletico defenders Jose Gimenez and Stefan Savic are both doubtful for the return leg.
European champions are going through an inexplicable dip in form which saw their huge advantage in the league in front of Atletico Madrid melt to just three points. The Catalans are experiencing their worst run of form in Luis Enrique’s era as they lost their last two league games, to Real Madrid and Real Sociecad, while they also played draw with Villarreal prior to the international break. Barcelona also struggled to find their pace against Atletico Madrid as well and hadn’t it been for Torres expulsion, many are wondering if Barca would have been able to record a win. The most recent loss to Real Sociedad was particularly alarming. Leo Messi had seven attempts on goal but remains stuck on 499 goals so far in his career, one goal short of the huge milestone. However, the MSN trio have generally been underwhelming in recent weeks and it will be up to them to raise the bar and lead their team forward to confirm the place in the last four of the elite club competition. Despite the poor patch, Barcelona are still on track to become the first Spanish club to win the treble two years in a row with the Copa del Rey final versus Sevilla coming up next month.
Rafinha is a major fitness doubt, while Thomas Vermaelen is out through injury.
Luis Suarez is coming back from his suspension, while Luis Enrique is likely to recall Jordi Alba, Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta who were rested in the 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad.
Key Factors to consider
- Barcelona have won their last 7 matches against Atletico Madrid
- Last three encounters between two sides ended in 2-1 result
- Rojiblancos have lost only one of their last 18 home games
- Leo Messi is one goal away from scoring his 500th goal for club and country
- Antoine Griezmann scored 8 goals in his last 10 games in all competitions
Atletico Madrid are eagerly anticipating the return leg ready to exploit Barcelona’s poor run of form. Diego Simeone’s men are a huge force, particularly at home ground and it is up to Luis Enrique’s men to get back to their feet and forget about the domestic woes to secure their place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
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