What: Champions League – Quarter-final first leg
Who: Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid
When: Tuesday 1st April, 2014, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain

Spanish Rivals

Having got back in the league title race with a win over former leaders Real Madrid little more than a week ago, Barcelona need to turn their attention back to the continental front as they play host to Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, in an all-Spanish affair. The Catalans are usually very strong at home, but the current domestic leaders will be anything but whipping boys, and will likely take the Blaugrana to their extremes.

Barcelona have won five of the last six meetings that pitted them against the Mattress Makers in all competitions at the Camp Nou, but midfielder Xavi still believes that facing non-Spanish opposition would have been an easier task for him and his team-mates. 

“I do not like Spanish rivals in the Champions League, I prefer one of any other European country. Atletico Madrid know us very well. These are games in which there are almost no chances. They can make us very uncomfortable, are very defensive, and they do very well on the counter-attack. They have high level players, such as Koke, [Diego] Costa, Arda [Turan]… This tie it seems will be decided by the details", reflected the decorated playmaker.

Sense Of Belief

Most of Atletico Madrid’s current crop of players have never been at this stage of the competition before, but as the Rojiblancos keep defying the odds domestically, there is a general feeling that Diego Simeone’s men might just prove to be this edition’s dark horses and go on to make an impact in the competition. 

Standing in their way however are Barcelona, the most successful side in the tournament in recent years. However, the visitors will not be intimidated by Gerardo Martino’s men as recent encounters between the two clubs have been very tight in terms of supremacy.

Besides town neighbours Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid are the only side with no losses in the 2013/14 Champions League. Knowing that they are in this round of the competition for the first time in many years, Koke is relishing the upcoming meetings against the Blaugrana. 

“Quarter-finals are not played every day. We are going to try to do well in both games in order to go through against very tough opponents. We knew that in the quarter-finals we were going to play a big team and Barcelona is one of them. We played three great games against Barca [this season], and now we will try to do two more in order to qualify”, declared the Copa del Rey winner.

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Recent form

Real Madrid 3-4 Barcelona (23/03; La Liga)
Barcelona 3-0 Celta Vigo (26/03; La Liga)
Espanyol 0-1 Barcelona (29/03; La Liga)

Atletico Madrid:
Real Betis 0-2 Atletico Madrid (23/03; La Liga)
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Granada (26/03; La Liga)
Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Atletico Madrid (29/03; La Liga)

Key absences

Barcelona: Carles Puyol; Isaac Cuenca; Victor Valdes; Jonathan dos Santos

Atletico Madrid: Javier Manquillo; Raul Garcia (suspended)

Players to watch

Barcelona – Neymar: The Brazilian has been extremely useful for his side in recent matches, winning a penalty against Real Madrid and scoring twice against Celta Vigo. He will want to reproduce this on the European front and find his best form as Barcelona’s season becomes critical.

Atletico Madrid – Thibaut Courtois: The Belgian shot-stopper will likely be under immense pressure as the Barcelona juggernaut will test him from every possible angle. Courtois has been a determining factor for his side recently, consolidating his status as one of the game’s growing keepers. A good display against Los Cules will make things easier at the Vicente Calderon.

Match Prediction

Recent clashes between the two clubs show that they have been very similar in terms of ability. Atletico Madrid will be facing an unprecedented situation at this stage of the Champions League, but are smart enough not let the pressure crush them. Barcelona will find it very hard against such a resilient side, but should get a narrow win in front of their fans, leaving everything to play for the following week. Barcelona 2-1 Atletico Madrid.

Betting on Barcelona v Atletico Madrid? Make sure you visit Inside Bet first!

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