The FourFourTwo Preview: Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid
These two sides have already played each other three times this season and there hasn't been a winner. Luckily for us, they were all exciting and entertaining matches. They weren't blessed with goals or lots of chances, but they were intriguing in a tactical way.
- Espanyol 0-1 Barca (Lge)
- Barca 3-0 Celta Vigo (Lge)
- Real Madrid 3-4 Barca (Lge)
- Barca 7-0 Osasuna (Lge)
- Barca 2-1 Man City (Cup)
ATLETICO MADRID FORM
- Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Atletico (Lge)
- Atletico 1-0 Granada (Lge)
- Real Betis 0-2 Atletico (Lge)
- Atletico 1-0 Espanyol (Lge)
- Atletico 4-1 Milan (Cup)
Confidence is high at Camp Nou, after they were just two Lionel Messi kicks from being out of the title race. The win in the Clásico wasn't all about the referee, despite what the Real Madrid dressing room are proclaiming.
Atlético Madrid are very much in the reckoning for major trophies; the team is hard-working and fun to watch, just like their manager Diego Simeone. They view themselves as a cup side, so this is their best chance of silverware.
The wins over Manchester City answered Barcelona's critics and suggested this isn't the end of the cycle. It was a real statement for Gerardo Martino, but he will need to negotiate the club through this tricky encounter for it to mean anything substantial.
Both Argentine managers are wanted by their national team to be a replacement for Alejandro Sabella after the World Cup. Martino is most likely to pursue this venture, as how he imagined his dream job in Catalonia has not coincided with reality.
Player to watch: Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid)
Barcelona are not known for their physicality and, unfortunately for them, Diego Costa likes nothing more than a good tussle. He will use his 6ft 2in frame to wrestle with opponents, while he will prod, poke, kick and elbow in order to get a reaction.
The adopted Spaniard shows no sign of letting up, even though a number of his antagonists are now international team-mates. Before the recent Madrid derby, he was honest with how he would battle Sergio Ramos: "If I have to hit him, I'll hit him," said the Brazilian-born forward. "If he has to hit me, he'll hit me, but always in a loyal way, always within the bounds of the game."
Gerard Piqué and Sergio Busquets can expect similar treatment. The sideshow shouldn't distract from the fact he is one of the world's deadliest strikers. Similarities with Luis Suarez don't stop at the on-field behaviour.
Martino likes to play a midfield four in the bigger matches to maintain control. This leaves Messi and Neymar to weave their magic in attacking areas. Runs from Andrés Iniesta and Cesc Fàbregas are crucial to help penetrate defences. Simeone's approach nullifies that of Barca perfectly. His forwards press the defence high up the pitch at a frantic pace forcing mistakes when they play short, while able to deal comfortably with the option of going long. The second phase involves Atlético dropping back and getting numbers behind the ball.
It's not quite Roy Hodgson's two banks of four, but they deny the Barcelona players space regardless.
Facts and figures
- Barca have not lost a match in the Champions League quarter-finals since April 2003, winning 8 and drawing 6 of their games at this stage since.
- Barca have won just 2 of their previous 6 CL matches against Spanish sides (W2 D2 L2).
- Atletico have won their last 3 European matches against fellow Spanish sides; all in the 2011/12 Europa League and including their 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the final.
- Barca have seen their opponent reduced to 10 men in 4 of their last 7 CL matches.
- In CL history, Barca have seen 27 red cards given to opponents; 9 more than any other side.
- Atletico have played the most games in CL history (excluding qualifiers) without being given a red card (30).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
A high tempo and high energy game, with all to play for in the return at the Vicente Calderón. 1-1.