How can Diego Simeone break his Luis Enrique duck?

El Cholo has mastered most of La Liga’s biggest beasts, but an Enrique-led Barcelona isn’t one of them – yet. He’s got his chance in the Champions League, writes Tim Stannard...

In La Liga Loca’s far-too-vivid imagination, Diego Simeone has a special room where he can find much-needed mental and physical relief. Not that kind. He’s not a member of the English Parliament. Or a BBC presenter from the 1970s.

Instead, the Atlético Madrid manager must have a place where he can release all that pent-up frustration and fury over being asked countless questions by numbskull journalists over whether his team can win the league. And what to do with Luis Enrique. Oh, and that whole blowing the Champions League against Real Madrid in the final seconds thing.

The alternative to a very padded anger room is that the dank Vicente Calderón press room cubicles must get a battering on a regular basis, like Adam Sandler’s rage explosion in Punch Drunk Love. (Which would explain a lot about the odd nasty whiff.)

From 00:30

Loopy over Luis

For the most part, the inspirational Argentine keeps a firm lid on his emotions, aside from a growling intensity. While it’s true that when sitting opposite Simeone there is the sense he could vault the press room desk and use a journalist’s head to hammer in a sticking-out nail at any given moment, Simeone is mostly serene. Intense, but serene.

However, a mental and football block over the current Barcelona manager must be getting on the Rojiblancos ruler’s wick a little.

The previous bum on the bench, Tata Martino, was bettered in La Liga. Carlo Ancelotti was also defeated in La Primera, if not quite in the Champions League. Neither Rafa Benítez nor Zinedine Zidane managed to beat Atlético in La Liga this season, continuing a period of dominance over the forces of Mordor.

Luis Enrique, Diego Simeone

"I'm just going to slap you a bit, like this"

But Luis Enrique remains a very stubborn opponent, with the Barcelona boss beating Diego Simeone on the six occasions the two have crossed paths, five by a single goal.

The current version of Barça seem immune to the hypnotising effect of Atlético’s mean-spirited, tough-tackling defence matched by set-piece tactical thuggery up front. As well as some pretty nifty players like Antoine Griezmann.

Capital punishment

Simeone was his typically curt self in Monday’s press conference. When asked what a good result would be in the Camp Nou, the not-unreasonable reply was “a win”. But it was pure Cholo when the Atlético coach demanded that the players know that “one minute [on Tuesday] is life”.

After the Clásico mishap from Saturday, Barcelona will be wary of the latest opponents from Capital City.

Even Gerard Piqué was continuing his weirdly serious manner of behaving recently, although there was a slight… er, sleight, on Real Madrid when the stopper claimed that he expected a tougher game than the Clásico, with Atlético being higher in the table than their city rivals.

El Clasico

Pique (right) thinks Atleti will pose an even tougher threat

Simeone would have taken note of Real Madrid’s methods of beating Barcelona, but look to extending the concept over 180 minutes and more if necessary. Tire and frustrate Barça at the back, and then attack forcefully when the right moment arrives at the other end of the box.

For Atlético, the 5-1 win in La Liga on Saturday against Betis would have cast away any doubts from the previous defeat at Sporting. Instead, Simeone might well fancy his chances of breaking his duck against Enrique. If not, a bathroom stall somewhere in Atlético’s stadium might need some rapid but extensive repairs.

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