Champions League preview: Barcelona vs. Atlético

Costa an injury worry as red and whites gear up for mammoth Euro clash

Spain's top 2 sides face off in Champions League  (UEFA)

Spain's top 2 sides face off in Champions League
(UEFA)

For years, Atlético watched on as Real Madrid and Barcelona battled for the top positions in Spain and Europe. This season however, things have changed.

They’re the top two in La Liga with a last day showdown still to come next month, contested the Super Cup back in August, and now los Rojiblancos and los Blaugrana are preparing to face each other in a Champions League clash that could go a long way towards deciding who comes out on top between the two this year.

Kick-off in the Camp Nou for tomorrow’s first leg is set for 20:45 CET.

So far, Atlético have shown they can juggle the pressures of competing both domestically and in European competition, and are leading the way in what many are calling the most exciting title race in years in Spain’s top tier.

On Saturday, they consolidated their place at the top of the Primera División with a crucial win at Athletic Bilbao, and come into the tie knowing that whatever happens, their rivals will still be playing catch-up to them come the weekend.

Having not reached this stage of the competition in some 17 years though, Diego Simeone and his team will be desperate for success in the Champions League as well, and are no underdogs against the four-time winners.

Crucial matches are coming thick and fast as we reach the business end of the campaign, there is no time for rest and any let-ups will be gladly taken advantage of by our fellow competitors.

With that in mind, the biggest news from the travelling camp ahead of the first leg are the sudden fitness doubts surrounding top scorer Diego Costa, who was forced to withdraw from Monday’s training session with knee discomfort.

The Spanish international is in red-hot form right now and would be a huge blow, especially as attacking partner Raúl García will also certainly miss out due to suspension.

In his press conference at the Camp Nou, Simeone spoke about the physical condition of his star centre-forward.

“Seeing how he left training, for me it’s hard to see [Costa] play tomorrow,” said the Argentine.

“We’re going to wait and see how things progress, as there is still a lot of time between now and kick-off. I’ll decide at midday.”

Cholo also addressed questions on the game, paying tribute to compatriot Tata Martino and analysing where it could be won and lost for his side.

“There will be an Argentine coach in the semis and that’s good for Argentine football,” he said. “Tata has adapted very well, [Barça] won the Supercopa are in the cup final, fighting for the title and Champions League. Both of our personalities and the essence of our nation is what we transmit.”

“We’ve played Barça three times this year but this will be the most difficult of the lot. In the first game we were the home side and in the third, Messi was recovering from injury.”

“Now they are in their best shape of the season, and will want to finish the tie here.”

Apart from Raúl García, the only first-team play for Atleti who did not make the trip was teenage full-back Javier Manquillo, still recovering from injury.

On the opposing side, 22 players make Martino’s call as his team – as most likely planned – come into a physical peak to coincide with the season’s climax.

Jonathan Dos Santos, Isaac Cuenca and most notably, Víctor Valdés are on their list of long term absentees, although the rest of the squad, including the returning Alex Song and captain Carles Puyol, have been called up.

Many were billing the clash as Diego Costa vs. Messi, although the chances could be we only see the latter, now looking back to his best following injury over the winter.

Back in January, the Argentine superstar came off the bench to little affect in a goalless league stalemate, but has re-discovered his scoring form since then with a stunning 17 goals in his last 12 matches.

“Having Messi from the start will make a great difference,” Martino told local press. “We have to win and not concede any goals, that’s obvious when there’s a return leg. Our job is to win as then the pressure will be on our opponents.”

“Atlético have been doing great things this year, as well as last. They are fighting in two competitions and in our three games against them so far, they have proved to be very tough opponents.”

“I expect a similar game to the Clásico last week, although we can’t go out there and play a wild game. We need to keep some order.” he concluded.

Following the final whistle, Atleti will return to the capital and switch attention back to La Liga and the visit of Villarreal, before the second leg in the Vicente Calderón next Wednesday evening.

Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Aranzubia
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Alderweireld, Giménez, Juanfran, Miranda, Insúa
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Koke, Gabi, Arda, Cristian Rodríguez, Diego, Sosa
Forwards: Adrián, Villa, Diego Costa

Barcelona match selection
Goalkeepers: Pinto, Oier
Defenders: Montoya, Piqué, Puyol, Bartra, Jordi Alba, Adriano, Dani Alves
Midfielders: Cesc, Xavi, Iniesta, Alexis, Mascherano, Busquets, Song, Afellay, Sergi Roberto
Forwards: Pedro, Messi, Neymar, Tello

Referee:  Felix Brych (Germany)


  • Kris

    Great match!! Hopefully Costa is well and fit to play tomorrow and bang a hat trick of goals to win it for us!! In Simeone, we trust!! Aupa Atleti!

  • starvs

    Please god let Diego Costa beast today.

  • Yon

    Obviously I want Costa to play, but is it worth the risk with dirty players like Mascherano, Busquets, Alves they will try and wipe him out to benefit them in the league and 2nd leg!

  • Jeronamo

    I understand not liking barca yon… but to call those players dirty as if they play like ramos or pepe is just not accurate, costa plays way dirtier. I hope he plays tho because he has been a handful for barca’s defence this entire season

  • Ali

    I prefer not to play costa we have a crutial game against villarreal! He needs some rest!i prefer this line-up without costa! Courtois juanfran godin miranda filipe koke gabi super mario arda diego as an attacking midfielder and villa as a striker! I hope we can get good result!

  • Dircil

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3P_AtvnQfMU

    I just pumped into this video about Oliver Torres on youtube. He’s surely the next big thing in the next season after Koke and Costa!

  • farhan

    illa illa illa VILLA MARAVILLA…..
    cmon simeone let him play 🙁

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    This season we have won in Santiago Bernabeu, San Siro, Sánchez Pizjuán, New San Mames (twice), Dragão and Anoeta (and almost won in Mestalla, but we still have another chance)
    we don’t have any problem to win in difficult stadiums, and I can’t see why not win in Camp Nou tonight, even without Costa
    we have Villa who knows that Stadium very well, and who had (again) a chance to take his revenge from Barca & Messi, because as we all know -even that nobody will admit it- that Villa left Barcelona because Messi did not want him there anymore

    without Costa and Raul, I don’t know who will be our 11th player, my heart says Diego, but my mind says Sosa !

  • jeronamo

    I wouldn’t begin to blame Messi for Villla’s short comings. Despite him playing for barca i for one am a HUGE messi fan but i’m an Atletico supporter also. Villa’s performances had dropped and it wasn’t because of another player, it was more on himself. I think he’s been working hard to get back to what he was and i hope he does because he is playing for us.

    On another note our team’s work rate shows that it doesn’t always come down to who’s playing up top to score our goals (unless it’s Adrian), so if Villa starts i still have confidence that he can do what Costa has been doing, the same thing Falcao, Forlan, Aguero and Torres did and thats score goals

  • farhan

    yep messi is responsible….tito tooo.
    after injury villa got not enough games to play… but when ever he got chance he proves his value… i believe if he start today he will score….
    MARAVILLA

  • Habib Mukadaffi

    This reff gives a red/yellow card very very easy.. He doesn’t allows Atletico to play hard…

  • jeronamo

    Farhan we all know you believe in Villa and i’m not downing you for it but looking at stuff realistically helps sometimes. Sometimes (believe it or not) an individual is responsible for his own actions as crazy as it sounds. I believe messi is the greatest footballer of all time but by no way do i let my belief of that cloud my judgement about who i want to win the match, the same way i could see what villa’s problem was when he was at barca.

    Anyway why are we even talking about Villa’s past? isn’t the present more important? Isn’t it more in being amazed and happy and even more so proud of what Atleti has done and is going to do this season? Sometimes i read the comments and just shake my head because some of you are no better than the asshole troller who comes to our site to talk trash. Lets just support our team and analyze the match afterwards like always

  • farhan

    @jerenamo….
    hehehe yup his present and future is more important …..even when he was child his right leg fractured but still he manage to play. keep improving and now he is here spains all time leading goal scorer….
    he again got injured in 2011 this time his left…
    and again he keeps on improving day by day…
    he will find his lost form
    he is on the verge of it now . it is just matter of time… 🙂 😀
    anyway….
    anyone knows expected lineup and about costa…? 🙂 …

  • farhan

    and hey i dont say messi is wholly responsible but he is there was a problem between them it is not hidden….
    but messi is my 2nd favourite (after villa)…
    heheheheh and this time you are supporting villa more than messi 😀
    ..
    MARAVILLA

  • farhan

    sorry jerenamo but i agree with ahmad…
    anyway just leave this topic…
    and happy about atleti performance and
    selfless contribution ….

  • Jeronamo

    Lol it’s cool bro. Of course I want villa to do better than messi today, I’m atleti after all… fact I would even like adrian to do better than messi

  • farhan

    expected lineup…. ?

  • piserakos

    Courtois
    Juanfran, Godin, Miranda, Felipe
    Koke, Mario, Gabi, Arda
    Villa, Costa
    Aupa Atleti!!!!

  • farhan

    costa nd villa 🙂

  • Jelle

    Are you sure about Costa? I hope so, he is so important. Come on atletico. I think we are able to get a draw 1-1 could be a good result.

  • farhan

    pinto rip !!!!!

  • Jeronamo

    It’s official. Costa and Villa are leading the line.

  • farhan

    adrenaline level 9999999

  • farhan

    4-4-2 vs 4-4-3…

  • Ali

    @jaronamo messi is not the greatest football player of all time! He,s not even close to what THE GREAT PELE acheived!

  • farhan

    when pele plays there was no offside ….
    donot agrue on this …cmon….

  • KING GERARD PIQUE THE PATHETIC

    This time I have to admit that you guys are going to totally destroy us. I mean, look at your squad – it’s made up of fighters, dirty at times and not very talented, but their leave their heart on the field and have no concerns for their own safety when the club’s reputation is at stake.

    And Barcelona, however great it may be, is still a team of sneaky bitches with no honour and an oversized salary and ego. I bet your great club will wipe the floor with us and I will lament the loss heartily while secretly hoping that you will go on to win the league and the Champions League. For no one deserves it more than great Atletico. Vamos!

  • Jeronamo

    Thank you farhan… I’m not about to argue about it either. Game on

  • farhan

    king pique 😀 he is good …mmm nt great

  • farhan

    hehehe…. aupa ateti

  • Jelle

    Villa! come on.. I don’t like the ref 🙁

  • farhan

    villa playing good 😀

  • Jelle

    He should have scored on that chance..

  • farhan

    🙁 hmmm

  • Jeronamo

    What are we doing? With thw little possession we’ve gotten we’ve given it away cheaply

  • Jeronamo

    Fuckkk… costa….. sigh 🙁

  • Jelle

    Damn Costa. Not looking good 🙁

  • farhan

    diego comes in hope for some possession

  • Jeronamo

    Arda is having a poor one just like this past weekend so far

  • farhan

    cmon VILLA … SCORE….

  • farhan

    we managed only 2 shots…….. 🙁

  • farhan

    that crull…. cmon villa ….

  • Ali

    Whats going on with villa he missed two glorious opportunities!

  • Jeronamo

    More chances to come. We look good when we try to play football, sometimes we’re sitting too far back

  • farhan

    keep calm he will score 😀

  • Brad

    Hopefully el Cholo gives them an earful before the second starts

  • Jelle

    DAMN! Diego have played a good game!

  • Jeronamo

    Goaaaal…. fucking magnificent

  • AndersAT

    Nice! What a start of the second half.

  • Andres (Lolaya)

    WHAT A GOAL!

  • farhan

    dammm gooood

  • pantic#10

    What a fantastic goal by Diego.
    Awesome performance by ours.

  • AndersAT

    Our defense is so strong in this game. Just hold om boys, and we will have a great oppertunity to finish it at home.

  • farhan

    mmm dafuq

  • farhan

    why the hell neyamr scored against us…always…

  • farhan

    so we are without striker….nice simeone… good 🙁

  • Jeronamo

    Arda needs subbing

  • farhan

    camp nou booed villa ? ….revenge at caledron… just tie it…

  • Brad

    Remind me why Barca gets to play Neymar even though he was acquired illegally?

  • Brad

    Nice job on fair play refs…whistle before Atleti get their kick…the only time a game ended right on time

  • farhan

    we are playing football or defend ball 🙁

  • Jeronamo

    It pisses me off…. a great result for us but we made a poor showing of how cheaply gave away the ball

  • Brad

    Just have to do a reverse of the Supercopa earlier in the season.

  • farhan

    not even holding the ball not creating chances… no forward….
    just defend… if we play like dis in 2nd lev sorry but
    barca will rape… atleti….

  • Chewie

    A fair result. I felt bad for Sosa and Cebolla – to come in in such a heated game, that must be tough. Glad we held on. And hope Costa will be in good health by the next game. What a goal by Deigo, jeez!

  • farhan

    yesssss .

  • palestine-atletico

    No reason of sosa instead of villa! Sosa and cebolla were very bad compared to arda and villa.
    Overall great result what is most important now is what happened with costa?

  • farhan

    i really wanted sosa in game but replacing villa for sosa .. what was in simeone mind that time…
    wierd……

  • Andres (Lolaya)

    Farhan… I really disagree with you. Yes Atletico was giving away the ball WAY too much but to say Barca will rape atleti is completely wrong…

    We did it today and look… we weren’t raped AT ALL. We held on and bring a great result back to Madrid that we have to work on.

  • marcelo

    The man for the big occasion. World class goal from a World class player.

  • MR

    Today we played one of the worst games this year, Simeone particularly underperformed with the whole Costa-case and the striker-less tactics in the end.
    It’s ironic though, that we should have won the game earlier. Villa cost us the game, which we should have won it in the first half. He is the man who kept Braca in the tie.
    This team did not look like Atletico at all, so all in all we should be very happy with the result.
    Cholo has to pull himself together, he looked confused and frustrated, and with the same approach we will get fucked in the ass next week.
    Vamos Atleti!

  • piserakos

    After the goal we were bad… I’m so happy with our players, they really fighted with everything they got and now we got them at Calderon (maybe a revenge for the Supercup). Villa lost 2-3 times easy the ball and lost one huge opportunity, but he helped. I’m so angry about Costa, we should protected him, just hope it is not something serius! Is any one here who doubts that we should give 30 mill for Courtois? Simeone made 2 mistakes. Well he is used to make them but this time they costed us. He should put little earlier Cebolla for Arda and i don’t think that playing without a forward was a good desition

  • Andres (Lolaya)

    MR, Atleti were making some bad mistakes but to say Barcelona will destroy Atletico when they couldn’t do it in the last 4 games now is stupid. In Vicente Calderon? Less of a chance. Barcelona could win but to say they will absolutely destroy Atletico is not a smart prediction.

  • Andres (Lolaya)

    Farhan you are wrong… Pele is the best player ever… there was absolutely offside rule at the time…

  • Jelle

    Great result. We have problems when we not are playing with a target man like RG or costa in the big games.

    To Danish television sayed Courtois that there will be a deal in 1 or 2 weeks. And he will only play in atletico or Chelsea, so maybe we already have done the deal or he are the 1 keeper in Chelsea.

  • Atletico9

    Good result at all. But God I wish that Costa is fine! Without him our chances in the League and CHL will be bad. Animo Costa <3

  • piserakos

    @Jelle… It is official… Next week we wait for the news.. We all hope for the good ones!