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Atlético Madrid vs Barcelona, 2016 Champions League: Team News, Match Preview

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There are very few matches in a football season that are true game-changers. Regardless of how well or badly a team is playing, a positive or negative result in these kinds of matches affect the outcome of the entire campaign. They can happen in the beginning or the end of the season, and you almost never know them when they happen.

But when Atlético Madrid and Barcelona kick off the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinal at Vicente Calderón on Wednesday, we will be looking at a game-changer. These two fierce, competitive teams with completely different styles create great moments every time they play, and what we witness in this game could very well decide their fate this season.

Both teams will fight for the La Liga title in the next six games, and the winner of Wednesday's clash can carry the momentum into their domestic trophy chase. In Atleti's case, it will be the ultimate redemption story: coming from behind to win both in the league and the European Cup tie will prove that Diego Simeone's men are capable of everything with their strong defense and even stronger belief and resolve.

For Barça, who have destroyed the world of football and created a magical, historic 39-game unbeaten streak, this is a key moment. After two losses in a space of a week and bad performances from the team's biggest stars, there is a cloud of questions over the Treble winners heading into Wednesday's huge game.

The Blaugrana have been a joy to watch all season, and now is the time to show what they're made of. There is no bigger opportunity to show strength than a Champions League deciding game in one of the world's toughest stadiums. Will the Catalan giants live up to the expectations and make another trip to the European Cup Final Four, or will Atleti shock the world with a performance for the ages?

Wednesday will be fascinating.



If the drop in form since the international break isn't enough bad news, coach Luis Enrique has some injury issues for the biggest match of the campaign: three defenders (Jérémy Mathieu, Aleix Vidal and Thomas Vermaelen) are out of the game with various physical problems. Rafinha Alcântara injured his adductor against Real Sociedad last Saturday, and is set for another spell on the sidelines just two games after coming back from a seven-month layoff. Forward Sandro Ramírez is also out, making it five absences.

With very few options on the squad to make rotations, there is only one available strong lineup: the Gala XI that started last week's encounter at Camp Nou. Marc-André ter Stegen returns to his Cup duties, with Dani Alves, Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba partnering star defender Gerard Piqué on the backline. Shakira's man will play through a hip problem, but that should not affect his performance. His hips won't lie.

In the midfield, Ivan Rakitic and Andrés Iniesta, who began the Anoeta loss last Sunday on the bench, will come back and play with Sergio Busquets. These three will be fundamental to maintain possession, avoid counter-attacks and control the majority of the game. If they do their job well, the front three will have an easier night to create magic.

Yes, the 'MSN' trio is certain to start, with Luis Suárez returning to the side after a league suspension. He was the man who scored the two game-winners last week, and his presence in the box against Atleti's incredible back four will be more important than ever. His two partners, Lionel Messi and Neymar, are certainly far away from their best form, and will need to regain their usual world-beating powers to try and get one or two away goals that should qualify the team to the semifinals.

Tactically, Barça has to work their width with their full-backs and wingers. That was key in the amazing second half performance at Camp Nou, the only bright spot in the last four bad games. The best tactical aspects of the Blaugrana system all came to light in that 45 minutes, and if the team is able to play that well again, they should be fine.

Perhaps more important than the starting lineup of the tactics is the attitude: the same attitude the Catalans displayed when they completely blitzed the Colchoneros at home, and not the apathy and lack of effort in the losses in El Clásico and at Anoeta. That is key to the game: to match Atleti's intensity and desire, and bring the best out of the most important players. Things have not been good lately, but it only takes one great night at Calderón to make everyone believe this is still the best team on Earth.


When this tie was drawn, Simeone was scared to death he wouldn't have any defenders available. They are almost all healthy now, apart from José Giménez, who is still training hard to make it on Wednesday, and the team scored a vital away goal in the first leg. Atleti's form is better, the best players are on the top of their game, and the Calderón atmosphere will certainly help. It is not crazy to say the Colchoneros are favorites to advance, but if you don't want to go that far, they are at least close to Barça.

Unfortunately for Simeone, Professional Barça Killer Fernando Torres is suspended after his controversial first leg red card, and the Argentinean coach does not have a true striker on the squad. He could use this opportunity to strengthen his midfield and hurt Barça on counter-attacks with Yannick Carrasco and Antoine Griezmann. No major squad players are in risk of suspension in the semifinal for yellow card accumulation, so the team can go all out and try to knock out the reigning champions.


Barcelona: WWDLWL

Atlético Madrid: WWLWLW


Barcelona 2-1 Atlético Madrid - 5 April 2016 - UEFA Champions League

In a tense game, Atlético dominated the initial period, and Fernando Torres scored and was sent off in the first half. With eleven men, the hosts came back in the second half thanks to a game-winning brace from Luis Suárez.


Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar

Atlético Madrid (4-1-4-1): Oblak; Juanfran, Godín, Lucas, Luís; Augusto; Saúl, Gabi, Koke, Carrasco; Griezmann


I have a terrible feeling about what's about to unfold, not only at Calderón but the rest of the season. 3-1, home team.

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