Barca To Keep It Tight At Vincente Calderon
Atletico Madrid v Barcelona
Atletico Madrid take on Barcelona in the second leg of their Copa Del Rey quarter-final clash with the Catalan side holding the slenderest of leads as they head to the Spanish capital.
League champions and Champions League finalists last season, Atletico have battled valiantly to match the standards they set themselves this time around and remain just four points adrift of leaders Real in La Liga following their 3-1 win over Rayo Vallecano over the weekend. Diego Simeone’s side have stuttered of late though, with three losses in their last ten – two of them suffered at the hands of Barca – while their once watertight rearguard has now kept clean sheets in only two of their past nine.
French forward Antoine Griezmann is the club’s top scorer this season with ten La Liga goals – including a brace over Vallecano – and a total of 13.
Barcelona made it six wins in a row thanks a 6-0 demolition away to Elche in La Liga on Saturday, with Lionel Messi and Neymar both scoring twice as part of an overall haul of 23 goals the team have scored during that run while conceding only two. Luis Enrique’s side have now lost just once in their past 18 outings and are still in with a chance of lifting all three major trophies they are entered into this season.
Messi, in what had been labelled one of his less prolific season’s, has now scored 31 times for the club in just 28 appearances, including 20 in his last 13 games.
After missing out at the weekend with a muscle problem, playmaker Koke is again expected to be on the sidelines in a significant blow to his side’s chances, with long term absentee Cristian Ansaldi also out while Arda Turan is also doubtful as he nurses a knock.
Barca are without a trio of defenders with Douglas recently added to an injury list that already featured Jeremy Mathieu and long-term casualty Thomas Vermaelen. Luis Suarez, Andreas Iniesta and Sergio Busquets could all figure once more though having been rested at the weekend.
Head to Head
As mentioned above, the teams have already met twice recently with Barca coming out on top in both clashes at the Nou Camp inside the last three weeks with Messi scoring in both victories for the hosts, including the only goal of the first leg five minutes from time.
However, in a total of six meetings last season, five ended in draws with the only victory coming for Atletico in the home leg of their Champions League semi-final.
Neither side managed to score more than once in any of those games, with an aggregate score of 4-3 to Simeone’s men illustrating just how tight things were. Prior to that Atleti had lost the previous six in a row to the three-time European champions.
Normal order seems to have been restored in this fixture now as despite their performances last term Atletico Madrid have only won once in the last 14 against Barcelona and need to do so again to reach the last four. The 21/10 on a home win is tempting but hard to justify against a side who have hit top gear and can pick off Simeone’s side on the break although the draw at 23/10 looks the most likely outcome for me. Both teams scoring is also well worth a punt too at 7/10.