A never say never Atleti side fight an inform Barcelona for a ticket to the Copa del Rey finals on Tuesday night.
After a hard fought loss at the Vicente Calderon last week, Atlético Madrid will face the Catalan giants at their home stadium tomorrow with the goal to claw their way to their first final of 2017.
Kick-off in the Camp Nou is set for 21:00 CET.
Barcelona has undoubtedly been in form, with back to back wins including a weekend win against a tough Athletic Bilbao side. Goals by Paco Alcacer, Messi and Alex Vida put the game away for the Catalonians.
Atlético faced newly promoted Leganés early last Saturday evening. Much like Barcelona, los Colchoneros took a victory over the weekend thanks to two goals by Fernando Torres
The first leg of the Copa del Rey battle between the two Spanish sides looked grim from an Atleti standpoint. Luis Suárez struck early into the match with a wonderful solo goal, leaving not only Godín, but also his Montenegrin centre-back partner Savic in the dust.
After the goal Atleti struggled to put up shots on goal for the entirety of the first half. To make things worse, Messi struck again for the blue and reds. It was a moment of brilliance, a trade mark golazo from outside the box, a rocketed left foot shot into the top net.
The half-time whistle blew and Atlético faced a mountain of a situation ahead of them. However in typical fashion, the Calderon and its players did not give in nor give up.
As the players left the tunnels and entered the pitch it was clear that Cholo had made a change both physically and mentally.
Torres has been subbed on in exchange for Croatian newcomer Vrsaljko and the players looked ready for “battle” with a new energy encompassing them.
“Gentlemen you can play good or bad, but there are more than 55,000 people that have come to see how you give everything that you’ve got, to see how you die for the Atlético Madrid shirt.
“Do not worry about the result, go out there and defend this badge, because that represents the 50,000 that are here”. (Speech given by Simeone during the half time break, according to COPE)
Atléticos new energy was not in vain, they were rewarded with a second half goal, albeit controversial. Greizmann headed home early in the second period.
The play started as a set piece floated in by Gabi, which was then headed across the goal by “Godin, Airlines Incorporated” (he has a knack of flying into headers) to find the Frenchmen in a pocket of space.
In reality It was a play that looked more like a volleyball strategy than that of Soccer, but it was a beautiful goal none the less. It must be said however that there was a possible foul on Suárez by Koke, which was apparently not seen nor considered by the referee or any of his assistants.
The second half had many a chance to level the home team. However luck was not on the Calderón’s side and the match ended 2-1 thanks to late heroics from Moyá stopping a well-placed free kick from Messi.
The second leg will be a true test of the “never stop believing” mantra. Simeone said during his after game press conference last Wednesday that “I have no doubt that we are alive, there is game to be played”.
The Atlético fans will back his statement. Just look at last year’s champion’s league fixtures against German giants Bayern Munich.
Not many outside of the team and its supporters really believed that Atlético would go through to the next stage. But “we” did, and against all odds the red and whites pulled through and continued to the finals.
Atlético fans will be hoping that history repeats it’s self this Tuesday. There is arguably no better team with any better coach for these types of situations.
El Cholo is a mastermind of the two leg fixtures. He will no doubt have a plan up his sleeve to combat the likes of MSN and co.
However, he will be without captain Gabi due to suspension, although Thomas is back from the African Cup of Nations and Lucas – following his well documented legal issues – is also in the squad.
Neymar misses out for Barcelona also because of a suspension.
There is no doubt that it will be a difficult task, some might say even a monumental one, however as Atlético fans will tell you, we will never stop believing!
In the historic words of Don Luis Aragonés, all that is left to do is “Ganar, ganar y volver a ganar!”#
Atlético match selection
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Moreira
Defenders: Godín, Filipe, Savic, Vrsaljko, Lucas, Juanfran
Midfielders: Koke, Saúl, Carrasco, Thomas, Gaitán, Juan Moreno
Forwards: Griezmann, Torres, Correa, Gameiro