There are still a few hours to go before the game, but it is something we can't stop thinking about. Eight days after the first leg, the tie will be resolved after another battle. This time that battle will be held at the Vicente Calderon, where Los Rojiblancos seek a positive outcome to turn around the 2-1 result in the first leg. Although they failed to win, Atletico got a valuable away goal that means a 1-0 win will be enough to see them through to the next round of the Champions League.
Meanwhile, Luis Enrique will have almost all of his players available for selection for the match; Aleix Vidal, Jeremy Mathieu, Thomas Vermaelen and Sandro Ramirez are the only ones missing with none of the proven starters at this stage of the season. The Blaugranas will try to clear up the doubts that have started to accumulate over the last couple of games, which has given Atletico and Real Madrid hope in the league title race.
A deceiving result for Barça
Luis Enrique and his side understand that the tie is far from being decided and will be made to suffer in order to qualify for the next round. Barca attacks every game based on their offensive power, but they understand that Atletico's defensive line might be able to counteract this. Thus, Atletico could do damage with counter-attacking moves with Koke finding space and delivering key passes to take advantage of the speed of Griezmann and/or Carrasco.
On the other hand, if Barcelona decide to start the game defensively, they will be going against their very nature and this could prove counter-productive as they would be inviting Atletico onto them. This is something Pep Guardiola would not have considered but with Lucho at the helm, it is possible that they use this tactic to ease themselves into the game.
Atleti have found the key
One of the positive conclusions that the mattress makers could take from the first match is that Simeone found (at least for a few minutes) how to hurt Barcelona. In the first ten minutes the match had no clear dominant force, but from there and for about 25 minutes Cholo had his opponent right where he wanted. His players pushed high up the field, which allowed several recoveries in Barcelona's midfield resulting in quick attacks early. After one of those steals, the ball reached Koke who found a gap and delivered an excellent pass for Torres to put Atletico ahead.
Since it is humanly impossible to maintain that physical level for the entirety of the game, Atletico began to defend with 11 players close together and close to their goal. This way, the team would recover from the effort made minutes before with an eye on repeating it once again later in the game. In this formation and deploying these tactics, the team did not suffer excessively and there was a high possibility of counterattacking. At that moment, Torres received his red card and the game was flipped on its head with Simeone's men under constant pressure and unable to hold off the might of Barcelona's front three.
Expecting a surprise from Cholo
Simeone already warned at his press conference in the afternoon before the day the match: "We will try to find something different to hurt our rivals." The Argentinian coach usually tries to surprise both with changes in his lineups and tactical variations during the games. And he actually did it in the match played at the Camp Nou when he put Carrasco, who had just recovered from an injury, in a quite offensive starting XI in order to land an away goal.
Reports from Los Colchoneros' last training sessions indicate that Augusto Fernandez could go in the starting lineup for the match. The Argentina midfielder gives the balance and offers the ability to hold the ball. One of those who benefited from his work is Koke, who is performing spectacularly playing closer to the front and doing what he loves to do in that position.
Another important aspect of the upcoming fixture will be on the success of Diego Simeone when picking Fernando Torres' replacement. The No. 9 has been the focal point for his side in recent weeks and Simeone has a big job in replacing him on Wednesday night. We'll see if the manager chooses the speed and dribbling of Carrasco or the daring and unpredictability of Correa.
Possible XI: Oblak; Juanfran, Lucas, Godín, Filipe Luis; Augusto, Gabi, Saúl, Koke; Carrasco, Griezmann.
In: Oblak, Moyá, Godín, Savic, Lucas, Filipe, Juanfran, Gámez, Kranevitter, Augusto, Gabi, Koke, Saúl, Thomas, Óliver, Carrasco, Correa, Griezmann, Vietto.
Out: Torres (suspended), Giménez and Tiago (injury).