Match preview: Atlético vs. Barcelona

Rojiblancos need to overturn one goal deficit to reach cup semi-finals

Two-goal win or penalties the only options for Atleti (Eurosport)

Two-goal win or penalties the only options for Atleti (Eurosport)

It’s make or break for Atlético on Wednesday evening, with comeback the only option against an in-form Barcelona side. The colchoneros need to overturn last week’s 1-0 defeat in the Calderón, or face crashing out of the Copa del Rey at the quarter-final stage.

Kick-off in the Spanish capital is set for 21:00 CET.

A late Lionel Messi penalty – saved by Jan Oblak but finished at the second attempt – is all that separates the two teams after the first leg, in what was a fairly evenly matched contest at the Camp Nou.

Atleti performed better than in the corresponding league fixture a couple of weeks previously and registered more shots on goal than their Catalan counterparts, but have it all to do having not scored an away goal.

Barcelona will know that a goal in Madrid will swing the balance heavily in their favour, but even so, the task for Simeone’s team is simple – at least on paper. Win by two clear goals, or face penalties.

The players seem motivated ahead of the clash, but have a number of selection problems that are complicating their preparation.

As we know, the big blow is the absence of Diego Godín at the back, who’s yellow card last week means he will serve a suspension. José Giménez will partner Miranda in defence for the second game running.

There was further bad news today as well, with Koke ruled out having failed to shake off the injury that caused him to miss Saturday’s win over Rayo. The midfield dynamo will have to wait for his 200th outing in red and white.

Tiago also picked up a knock and will not make it back in time, whereas Cristian Ansaldi remains on the sidelines with a persistent hamstring problem.

Arda is said to still be lacking in fitness but is expected to start, as is Fernando Torres, with Mandžukić dropping to the bench. Jan Oblak will also keep his place in goal.

In his press conference, Simeone refused to bemoan his key absences ahead of the match, instead choosing to stay calm and analyse the game methodically.

“It’s a home match like any other, we will play the way that suits us best,” he said. “I feel we can turn things around.”

“Will we play patiently or attack from the off? I feel we can do both. In the Bernabéu we were ahead after a minute, and again we’ll try and make the game comfortable for ourselves.”

Cholo was also asked about the fans, with news coming today that the stadium is expected to sell out come kick-off. However, he refused to issue a rallying cry.

“The fans know what they feel when they come to the Calderón. I don’t feel the need for them to do anything different than what they usually do, we know we have the backing from them.”

Looking at Barça, we face a team bang in form and with almost a full bill of health. Since defeat at Real Sociedad in their first game of 2015, Luis Enrique’s team have won six on the bounce, scoring 24 times in the process.

That run includes two successes over Atlético, who’s recent run against the Blaugrana does not make for good reading. In our last 14 meetings, we have won on just the single occasion last season in the Champions League.

In his press conference, Enrique seemed confident and prepared for the occasion, but did give the impression that his team’s priorities this season lie elsewhere.

“I’m only thinking in winning,” he said. “I’m not sure if it’s the most important game for us, but it is a chance to get to the semi-final of the Copa del Rey which is a valuable competition.”

“From Atlético I expect the usual style of play, somewhat more exaggerated as they are playing at home. They are missing players, but I imagine it will be a strong line-up still.”

Whoever does win the tie will take on either Villarreal or Getafe in the semi-final, the Yellow Submarine also 1-0 ahead after winning in the Madrigal last week. Games will be played on February 11th and March 4th.

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

  • I would love a comeback, it will be the first time for Simeone to do it with us, and one of the fewest occasions we achieve a comeback against Barca, and it will be just the second time to beat Barca under Simeone, the man who beat Real Madrid 5 times after failing to win a single game in 14 years,
    beside, if we knocked out Barca after knocking out RM, and with Valencia are also out and Sevilla are about to be, the cup will be the closest trophy for us this season

    BUT DESPITE ALL THAT, I’m more concerned about Eibar game in La Liga
    As usual, after every tough game, LFP don’t give us any chance to catch our breath, there is no explanation why we have to play on Saturday and not Sunday !
    Eibar are a difficult team, especially at home where they only conceded 8 goals in 9 games which helped them to become 8th on La Liga table
    The injuries are starting to hit us hard, Tiago, Koke, Andaldi, and Arda who usually can’t complete the 90 minutes even if he is fit, I will not blame Simeone’s lack of rotation for the injuries, but I will blame him if we needed Saul & Jimenez but they failed to help us because they forget football as a result of their long time on the bench

    And after Eibar there is Real Madrid, while Valencia and Sevilla are waiting any slip from us, they are just 3 & 5 pts behind, with the last having a game in hand, even if it’s against Madrid
    They both don’t drop a lot of points, not just because they have strong teams, but more significantly, because the competitiveness of La Liga is a joke, there is a very big gap between the top 5 or top 6 and the rest of the teams,
    Atleti, Valencia, Sevilla & Villarreal will win more than 90 % of their games against the last 14, and they are the games between the 4 of them which will mainly decide their positions on the tables
    This is not healthy at all

    I will not be happy if we qualified tomorrow then couldn’t win in Eibar
    We shouldn’t leave the top 3 for even a single week .. it will be a huge pressure on us, which is the last thing we need

    Partido a Partido won us La Liga last season, but it was also one of the reasons we lost the CL final
    Game by Game is still the best way for us, but a slight modification could be helpful

  • Chewie

    I’m extremely pessimistic about the game. Without Godin, Arda, Koke and Tiago, with unstable Juanfran and Siqueira, and with a tired Gabi, we are facing one of the meanest offenses in the world. Chances that their trio will score are huge. And if they do, I don’t think we will overcome the deficit. We didn’t show anything in the last two games against them. Only luck and insane amount of effort can turn the game in our favour.

    As Ahmad well pointed out, we have other things to think about. So I will be happy with a semi-experimental line-up, with someone fresh and eager. I want the players to show their best but won’t blame anyone for losing or drawing, let alone for winning with a one-goal lead. CL and the League are much more important, and I believe that Villarreal and Valencia could cause Barcelona a lot of trouble in case we lose.

    That said, I will still believe in Cholo and the guys, for on the Calderon, everything is possible.

  • Ringo Gambo

    Simeone has 23 plants
    But only 12 or 13 of them get watered
    4 plants caught a virus
    Now there are 8 or 9 fresh plants left
    The 10 or 11 other plants are too weak for lack of watering

    Partido a partido is great, strategically, on the short term, less short with super plants like Koke and Juanfran.
    Them not being in upmost shape, be it mentally or physically, shows a point that isn’t in need of words.
    In the end, more plants need to have been grown to have a solid garden, for a longer while.
    One grandesque center piece will not always stand the tests of time.

    Sorry for staying in this metaphor for this long, but I really do think Simeone needs to work on this aspect of his job. He waters more plants than Quique did, but everyone would.
    We cannot expect Saúl to be in the shape we need because he needs rhythm to grow into (potentially) stellar proportions.