Barcelona may be unbeaten in this season’s Champions League competition – winning 6 and drawing 3 of their 9 previous fixtures, but be prepared for an upset as the holders head to the Vicente Calderon.
Atletico Madrid were put through their paces by Dutch side PSV, who initially held them at a stalemate after 180 minutes and both legs of the tie, but Simeone’s warriors eventually reached the quarter finals via a penalty shootout.
This season’s tournament draw marks the third successive season that Atletico Madrid are drawn against Spanish opponents in the quarter finals of the Champions League.
Atleti fans will be hoping for a repeat performance from the 2013/14 season where they reached the final, eliminating Barca in the process.
Not that their fans are ever lacking in belief for their side, but here are…
Five Reasons Why Atletico Madrid Will Beat Barcelona
5. Barcelona Can’t Defend For S***
Contrary to popular belief in the mainstream media, Barcelona do have a weakness – and it’s a big one.
For a while, Barcelona looked liked an unstoppable force, sweeping aside any opposition they met in their path – the Catalonian outfit racked up an impressive record of 39 games without defeat before crashing into El Clasico.
Their strong run was largely accredited to the awesome fire-power of MSN, thrashing hat-tricks past opponents at will. It wasn’t until Barca met Arsenal that their defensive was properly tested in the Champions League (Bayern provided little bite in the group stages).
Arsenal played Barcelona during a period where their own form was extremely shaky, but they did more than scratch the surface of the Barca defence. If Arsenal’s finishing hadn’t been so poor at the Camp Nou, a particularly weak opponent could’ve easily put 4 past Ter Stegen – fortunately the hosts were convincing at the other end.
4. Diego Godin and Stefan Savic Return
Atletico Madrid will be bolstered by the return of defensive rocks Diego Godin and Stefan Savic, the pairing will fancy their chances against the trident attack force of MSN. Godin is back in the heart of the Atletico defence, having recovered from a hamstring strain after missing the last three weeks.
Former Manchester City flop Savic has also shrugged off muscle injuries which have prevented him from playing since late February and both will be relishing the task of blunting Barcelona’s all-star attack at Camp Nou.
Godin famously scored the crucial goal at the Camp Nou to hand the Atleti their cherished La Liga title in 2014 – he’s the man for big games, you wouldn’t bet against him silencing the Catalonian crowd once more.
3. Atletico Are Physically Fitter That Barca
Barcelona looked weary against Villarreal. Limping to a 2-2 draw, the signs were there that Enrique had overplayed Messi, Neymar and Suarez, MSN looked burnt out.
With the trio seemingly too valuable to rotate with squad players, El Clasico confirmed Barca fans’ fears as a rampant Ronaldo massively overshadowed a jaded Messi and co. – the three world-beating attackers had simply played too many games in an exhausting campaign.
Atletico, on the other hand looked conditioned and ready for battle at the Camp Nou as they defeated Real Betis 5-1 at the Vicente Calderon
2. Atletico Have History On Their Side
This tie is a case of deja vu for Los Rojablancos. The boast a fantastic line-up of veterans from their 2014 Champions League campaign; Simeone has worked hard to retain his key players.
Koke, Tiago, Gabi, Juanfran, Felipe Luis and Diego Godin were influential on both home and away legs as Atletico knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League on away goals when they previously met at this stage.
That wealth of experience will serve them well with many of the team that did the job that day still with the club and ready to emerge victors once more.
1. Simeone Is A Superior Tactician To Enrique
The tactics Zinedine Zidane used to conquer Barcelona on Saturday were relatively simplistic; Simeone won’t have missed a trick when his side line up against Enrique’s stars.
Real’s approach was perfect – allow Barca to control possession of the ball in non-threatening areas but when they encroach on the 25 yard threshold, apply pressure, and pressure hard.
Casemiro was the man tasked with breaking up play and intercepting passes before releasing wingers Ronaldo and Bale to counter-attack. Karim Benzema’s bullish approach occupied Pique and Masherano, making it impossible for the defenders to venture up the field.
Diego Simeone has a close-knit squad of players at his disposal who would be more than capable of emulating their rival’s El Clasico performance .
Koke is likely to be his chief creator, playing between the lines in midfield – feeding Griezmann and Carassco to engage the attacking-minded Barcelona fullbacks. Fernando Torres, whilst not as physical as Benzema, will use his speed and channel-running to disturb Pique and Masherano.
A combination of either Gabi,Tiago or Kraveintter are experienced in disrupting play in the centre of the field, acting as a first line of defence for Atleti’s strong unit.