Match preview: Barcelona vs. Atlético

Rojiblancos head north for Copa del Rey quarter-final battle

Koke in line for deeper midfield role (

Koke in line for deeper midfield role (

Ten days on from our league defeat, Atlético return to the Camp Nou on Wednesday looking for revenge against a rejuvenated Barcelona side.

Having knocked out Real Madrid, many see ourselves and the Blaugrana as favourites to win the Copa del Rey, but only one can make it to the semi-final.

Kick-off in Catalonia is set for 22:00 CET.

After their annual crisis period, Barcelona returned to form with that against Atlético earlier back on January 11th and went on to qualify for the Copa quarter-finals in style, beating lowly Elche 9-0 on aggregate in the last round.

Just a point behind Real Madrid at the top (albeit having played a game more) and firing from all cylinders on the pitch again, Luis Enrique can make a real statement of intent by securing major silverware following a barren spell in 2014.

Atleti proved last season that they are more than a match for Messi, Neymar and co, but it has to be said that Barça dominated the league meeting and had our number throughout the game, eventually worthy 3-1 winners.

However, it was at this stage of the Champions League that Simeone masterminded victory against the same opposition back in April, and he will be just as desperate to do the same this time around in the cup.

Despite winning the league in the Camp Nou, the red and whites haven’t actually won there in their last 12 visits, a run that stretches back until 2005-06.

On that occasion, Fernando Torres was the match winner with a brace, a feat he repeated in the Bernabéu last week to ensure Atleti’s qualification.

Having started up front in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Granada, reports suggest that he will again be paired with Mario Mandžukić in tomorrow’s first leg.

Cholo tested the two up front in training today, also bringing Antoine Griezmann into an attack minded line-up that featured Koke dropping into midfield alongside Mario Suárez.

The Argentine tactician has already spoken twice to local press in Majadahonda this week, both about the game and in general on Monday, interestingly about his future and that of the club.

“If Atleti continue growing as they are then I will not move,” he asserted. “The club has a huge future, and a fantastic present as well. I can identify with where we are going and am engaged with everything that is happening behind the scenes.

“As usual, against Barcelona we face a great opponent.

“Tommorow need to start better than in the league game, we didn’t play with our usual pressure or intensity there and struggled especially in the first half hour. Against a team like them you will be punished.”

Snow put a halt to our training preparations on Monday, but the team still managed to get out onto the pitch in the afternoon and earlier on Tuesday.

The one big selection blow concerns Tiago, who hasn’t recovered in time from injury that kept him out of the Granada game. Cristian Ansaldi also remains on the sidelines, whereas Cani is not fully fit yet.

Atleti also confirmed the departure of Cebolla Rodríguez today, the Uruguayan joining Parma on loan until June in search of minutes ahead of the summer’s Copa América.

Jan Oblak is likely to stay in goal after a shaky second leg against Real Madrid, but the rest of the team should be at full strength. Mandzukic, Griezmann, Godín and Raúl García are all one booking away from a suspension in the competition.

Barça on the other hand will be without Jeremy Mathieu, who was ruled out earlier in the week, as well as fellow defenders Douglas and Thomas Vermaelen. Xavi should be fit despite a recent calf injury.

For those unaware, it’s worth remembering that away goals apply in the Copa, so the rumoured attacking line-up from Atleti may be with that in mind. The second leg is set for next Wednesday in the Calderón.

Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak
Defenders: Godín, Siqueira, Gámez, Juanfran, Miranda, Giménez
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Koke, Griezmann, Raúl García, Arda, Gabi, Saúl
Forwards: Mandžukić, Raúl Jiménez, Torres

  • it’s a little outrageous to have 4 players with one booking from suspension after just 2 qualification rounds, even though the suspension in the cup is after the 3rd yellow and not the 5th as in La Liga, and even that the refs in Spain have an orgasm-like feeling whenever they book one of our players, BUT we should have been more careful .. especially Mandzu & Grizi who didn’t get both of their yellows in the tie against Real Madrid like Godin & RG8, but they got only one, while the other was against Hospitalet !!