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UEFA Champions League 2016: A look forward to Barcelona vs Atlético Madrid

Barça - Atlético serves as the perfect yard stick in which to measure the progress of Luis Enrique's team.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

As the balls were drawn on Friday, there was a familiar feel to Barça's tie. They had met Diego Simeone's team two years ago at the same stage and were kicked out of the competition through a 2-1 aggregate score to the Madrid side.

The two legged affair was a representation of Barça's season. Slow, predictable and an over willingness to play long balls forward constructed by then manager Gerardo Martino. It was the Argentine's first season at the club and despite an impressive start including a 20 game unbeaten streak, there was unrest at the style of play brought by Martinio. The appointment was seen as a departure away from the styles of Pep Guardiola and Tito Villanova and more towards a physical, counterattacking approach. While this suited the pace of Neymar and Lionel Messi, it left players like Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández isolated and Barça's creativity suffered.

Contrast this to Atlético Madrid in the same season who were defying expectation and challenging their cross city rivals Real Madrid as well as Barcelona for the Liga title. Coupled with strong performances in Europe's premier competition and it was looking like it would not be business as usual for the Catalans. The sides met in the quarter finals with Barça boasting a record of reaching, at least, the semi finals in the past six seasons.

Atlético scored first at the Camp Nou before Neymar got an equaliser but the second leg consisted of the solitary goal from Koke to put Atlético through. This triggered a succession of disappointments in all competitions. Later in April they would lose the Copa del Rey final to Real Madrid before failing to defeat Atlético on the last day of the season that would've given them the Liga title.

Martino walked away and the club appeared to be entering a period of uncertainty. This was the first season since the 06-07 season that the team had failed to win a single trophy and there were serious questions as to whether Barça were past their best.

In steps Luis Enrique. An accomplished manager but still a relative unknown at this high level, Barça chose again to promote from within and give the job to a man who played over 200 games for the club.

Many were not happy with the direction the club was going. Fewer and fewer La Masia products were given first team chances and the club made the controversial decision to sign Luis Suárez, a player who was serving a hefty ban for his third offence of biting.

Even by January of Enrique's first season, there was still suspicion. Suárez had served his ban but had yet to find his goalscoring touch, Messi was rumoured to be unhappy with Enrique and after a surprise defeat to Real Sociedad, the manager was in the firing line. But, the board restrained from the axe and the team hit their stride at the perfect time.

A redevelopment of the philosophy saw Barça incorporate the passing game but through Suárez, they had an out ball and an increased physicality. A long ball over the top eased the pressure on the defence while the work of Suárez allowed others into the game. The club went on to win La Liga, the Copa del Rey before seeing out the treble with a Champions League final win over Juventus.

This season, the trend has continued. Barcelona have a vast points advantage at the top of the table, are in the final of the Copa del Rey and have not lost a game in almost 40 matches. The talk is no longer of if they can retain the treble, it is of who can stop them?

Simeone's Atlético were a side that knew how to beat Barça. They enjoyed routine success over them but now, they've lost all six meetings with Enrique's Barça. The sides meet in early April and there can be no better benchmark to measure the difference between Martino's Barça and Enrique's.

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