The Copa del Rey Final is up for grabs on Tuesday night at Camp Nou as Barcelona face Atlético Madrid in the second leg of the Spanish Cup semifinal. The Blaugrana picked up a great 2-1 away win at the Calderón, and are very close to playing their third straight Cup final under Luis Enrique.
We all know how dangerous Atlético are and they have the tools to turn this around, but can they do it? I sat down with Jeremy Beren from Into the Calderón, the Atlético Madrid blog on SB Nation, to discuss the game and the Colchoneros chances of pulling off the upset at the Camp Nou, and whether or not Fernando Torres will score against us again.
1 - How confident are you Atleti can still turn this around?
Not very confident, maybe around 20%. I realize that I said this same thing — with even less confidence — ahead of the UCL quarterfinal second leg last April, but I feel this is different. Barcelona scored two massive goals at the Vicente Calderón, taking advantage of what is becoming a leaky defense, particularly against the top teams in Spain. I think Atlético probably play well at the Camp Nou, and I'd say it's likely they score. But I have little faith that they will keep a clean sheet away or win a three- or four-goal thriller.
2 - Barça destroyed Atleti in the first half at Calderón. How did that happen and what can you do to avoid that?
Barça got off to a very quick start, which Atlético are not very good at doing (this team has been much better in the second half of games this season). Atleti responded well to the Suárez goal, but failed to put away chances in the 25 minutes after it and paid for it when Messi scored from nothing to double the lead. Like last year's league encounter at Camp Nou, Atleti have to start fast, score the first goal and hope the defensive structure holds up without the suspended Gabi and with the wildly inconsistent Stefan Savić at center back.
3 - Fernando Torres scored a brace at the weekend. Does that mean he starts against Barça and breaks our hearts like always?
Torres will start, but jury's out on how much damage he's gonna do. He played great against Leganés on Saturday and looked as good as he had in nine months. Diego Simeone loves him in the big games because he is a hard worker who will press up, run channels reasonably well and use his remaining athleticism to win aerial duels. I will die laughing if he scores against you guys again.
4 - What has to work better for Atleti, the defense or the attack?
The defense. Atlético will need multiple goals in this game, yes, but Simeone will be playing a very open team with Koke and Saúl Ñíguez in the middle and Yannick Carrasco and Nico Gaitán around them, not to mention Torres and Antoine Griezmann up top. Atleti might just be able to get a second goal at some point in this game. But that won't matter if the rejuvenated Barça midfield picks apart the Gabi-less Atleti midfield (for those who don't really appreciate Gabi: you're gonna see how essential he is in this game) or Messi scores some absurd free kick from 22 yards because Savić took out his ankles. Atleti must be smart, disciplined and patient in the two banks of four. These defensive principles don't always come out in full force against the Blaugrana; any little mistake will probably be costly.
5 - Prediction!
1-1, which means a preemptive congratulations on getting rolled by Celta Vigo in the final!
Many thanks to Jeremy for the interview. Really awesome insight. I also sat down with Jeremy, and you can find my answers on Into the Calderón soon.