La Liga rivals head into the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-finals in contrasting spirits. Barcelona were dealt a huge blow in Saturday’s El Clasico, while Atletico Madrid hammered Real Betis and will be eager to knock down the European champions while they’re on their knees.
Luis Enrique’s men suffered their first defeat since October 2015 and their incredible unbeaten run came to a halt on Saturday at Camp Nou. Real Madrid outplayed their arch-rivals and secured a 2-1 win in an emotional El Clasico which was marked by a touching tribute to Dutch legend Johan Cruyff. Gerrard Pique opened the proceedings in the second half, but Real Madrid got back in the game through Karim Benzema before Cristiano Ronaldo’s composed finish sealed the win for Zinedine Zidane’s men. Catalans have gone two games without a win now and will be keen to get back to winning ways against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday. Luis Enrique will hope his MSN trident will step up their game and put an improved performance after a silent night against Real Madrid. Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez were criticised for their lifeless display in El Clasico, but in their defence the South American trio clearly felt consequences of their exhausting international duties. Most recent tradition is working in Barca’s favour though as Catalans have won their last six meetings with Atleti, but Luis Enrique will most certainly be alert heading into the game.
Jeremy Mathieu has picked up a meniscus tear during international duty and will miss the first leg. Sandro Ramirez and Adriano join the Frenchman on the sidelines due to their respective injuries as well.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen should replace Claudio Bravo in goal for the Champions League match, but no other changes are expected to the starting line-up.
Diego Simeone’s men have had a perfect introduction to their Champions League encounter with Barcelona. Having hammered Real Betis 5-1 early on Saturday, Rojiblancos were able to put their feet up and revel in El Clasico outcome. Atletico Madrid will be hoping to repeat the Champions League scenario from two years ago when Atletico knocked Blaugrana out of Europe’s elite competition at the very same stage of the competition. Their chances of beating Barcelona will have been improved with a huge selection boost. Lucas Hernandez made a return from injury he picked up at international duty and put in a fine display against Real Betis to show why he is so highly rated. Fernando Torres will use his goal as a great morale boost ahead of Barcelona clash, while Antoine Griezmann’s brace is just another confirmation of the Frenchman’s scintillating form. The 25-year-old forward increased his tally to 19 La Liga goals in 31 games thus far, while he also added five in eight Champions League appearances this season. Griezmann will definitely be the one to watch in Diego Simeone’s side.
Diego Simeone is pleased to welcome Diego Godin, Yannick Carrasco and Stefan Savic back to the squad for the trip to Camp Nou.
On the other side, Jose Maria Gimenez, Tiago Mendes, Luciano Vietto and Oliver Torres remain out of contention with their injuries.
Key Factors to Consider
- Barcelona saw their 39-match unbeaten run came to an end against Real Madrid
- Catalans have suffered their first defeat since October 2015
- Atletico Madrid lost last six meetings with Barcelona
- Rojiblancos eliminated Barcelona from UCL two years ago
- Simeone’s men lost only two of their last 10 games on the road
Barcelona are a wounded animal after their disappointing loss to Real Madrid and will be highly dangerous on Tuesday. Luis Enrique’s men will be looking for a swift response, but Atletico Madrid have been given a timely selection boost and Catalans will have plenty of problems reaching the goal.
Verdict: Half-time draw
Bookmaker: William Hill