The saying goes that a team is only as good as their last game. Whilst such a perspective may be a little short-sighted, the weekend’s results will likely have an impact on Tuesday’s all-Spanish mammoth clash.
Pre-Clasico, Barcelona were on an amazing 39-match unbeaten streak, only four games short of reaching Juventus’s record. Then on Saturday evening, Real Madrid came from behind to prove that the reigning champions are not invincible.
Some may say that such a result will help the Catalans. It’s a wake-up call in a perfect moment, removing any unwanted complacency before a serious Champions League test. They’re no longer playing to maintain a record – their sole goal is to win.
Contrastingly, their loss will be a big boost for their opponents Atletico Madrid. After having easily dispatched of Real Betis 5-1, Antoine Griezmann in frightening form, they would have watched the Clasico keenly.
Whilst it’s highly unlikely that the result will affect the outcome of the League, with Atletico still trailing the leaders by six points, they would have been buoyed by the manner in which La Blaugrana seemed to run out of steam. It’s also the mental boost of watching an opponent lose, the realisation that they aren’t unbeatable, even at Tuesday’s destination, Camp Nou.
This is the 13th time that these two sides have met in the last three years. Of the last six, Los Cules have won them all. Barcelona have also scored at least two goals in six of the last seven matches in the Champions League. Atletico’s strength defensively, however, is well known to all. They’re undefeated in their last six Champions League matches, having kept a clean sheet in five of those.
Yet in the first leg, the onus is on the away side to grab an all-important away goal. Atletico, however, haven’t scored in their last 245 minutes of European action, needing penalties to get past PSV Eindhoven. They’ll have to be brave offensively if they are going take an elusive away goal to back to Vicente Calderon. Diego Simeone may decide to play a 4-4-2 formation, with Fernando Torres partnering Griezmann up front, to put more pressure on the Barcelona back line.
A major boost for the away side could be the return to fitness of centre-back pairing,Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez. Whilst it’s not certain that Gimenez will be fit to play, it’s looking highly likely that their vice-captain and star player Godin will be fit. His return will be a massive bonus for Atletico, as not only does he bring quality and stability, but he is a vocal, commanding leader. Barcelona will be without Jeremy Mathieu and Adriano, though neither were likely to start.
Gerard Pique said at the press conference on Monday that he would relish playing Real Madrid in the final of the Champions League whilst Atletico’s Argentine forward Angel Correa likened their quarter-final tie to a final. Could it be Atletico’s focus on the present which takes them through to the next round?