The first leg of the Champions League quarter finals has arrived. Barcelona and Atleti will face each other at the Camp Nou in a match that Diego Godín has recovered in time to feature in, which could prove to be a decisive factor. Los Colchoneros approach the game on a high after a 5-1 victory over Betis at the weekend and a plethora of returning players from injury. Godín, Stefan Savic, Óliver Torres, Yannick Carrasco and Luciano Vietto could be in Simeone's squad for the fixture and the Argentinian manager will have plenty of choices on the bench - something that could not be said just last week. The coaching staff decided to bring the whole squad with them to Barcelona (22 players + Bernabé and Monsalve including the injured Tiago and Gimenez) in order to create a good team atmosphere.
Meanwhile the Catalan side could have some doubts after a difficult defeat in El Clasico last Saturday. Luis Enrique's team dominated Real Madrid for much of the game but suffered a sharp downturn in physical fitness and finished the match overwhelmed by the counter-attacking play of Los Blancos. Coincidentially or not, the change in pace of the match coincided with the substitution of Rakitic for Arda Turan and Gerard Piqué tried to downplay the defeat saying the UCL clash will be "harder and more important".
Aleix Vidal, Jérémy Mathieu, Adriano Correia and Sandro Ramírez will be absent from the Blaugranas squad, all of them with injuries.
Cholo could play a 4-3-1-2 system
Although Diego Simeone gave away few clues about the team he will choose for the match, it seems clear that there could be practically no changes with respect to Saturday's night game. Los Rojiblancos delivered a great performance, looking like a well balanced team, and were dangerous in attack and solid in defense. The manager seemed happy in his press conference because his team proved themselves capable of carrying out the 4-3-1-2 system, "a very difficult way to play" he said. Even though Betis and Barcelona are very different sides, if something works why change it?
The midfield is key in the Rojiblancos line-up and that 4-3-1-2 seems to actually strengthen all the midfielders likely to play. Augusto made plenty of interceptions and steals and helped the defense start the attack with a variety of passes. Gabi and Saúl were able to create pressure higher up the field and covered both wings admirably. Meanwhile, Koke played closer to Griezmann and Torres, increasing his appearances in the opponents area and exploiting his ability to deliver key passes to the forwards (i.e. Torres' goal against Betis).
Regarding the defensive line, the pharaoh could be the main novelty, and Lucas Hernandez could feature in the starting XI. It seemed Stefan Savic would be available for the game, but had to leave accompanied by a physiotherapist at the end of the last training session with the team - as of Monday night, he had carried out a series of fitness tests and we await news on his availability. The academy player, Lucas, has seamlessly slotted into the games where Cholo has chosen him to play, so there is no reason to doubt him even when you consider the magnitude of the trip to Barcelona.
"Torres is the best option for this match"
Torres and Grizi, Grizi and Torres. Both showed in the last game that they are the duo who best understand Atletico. In the case of the canterano, it was agreed with Simeone beforehand that he would play 60 minutes and Cholo admitted it was good preparation for the UEFA Champions League. The No. 9 was the main reference point for his team and showed that the plan prepared during the break for national teams worked perfectly. The striker showed off his physical presence and his speed to attack the spaces left open by Real Betis. This feature of Torres' game can also be useful against a defense like Barcelona, and Simeone understands this.
The Frenchman in the meantime, moved freely across the front of attack, appearing wherever his team needed him and enjoyed a great afternoon with two goals and an assist. He is the star of the team and if he plays as well as he is capable, there is little doubt that Atletico will have plenty of chances to score; The key is finishing those chances.
Possible XI: Oblak; Juanfran, Lucas, Godín, Filipe Luis; Augusto, Gabi, Saúl, Koke; Griezmann, Torres.
In: Oblak, Moyá, Bernabé, Godín, Savic, Giménez, Lucas, Monsalve, Filipe, Juanfran, Gámez, Kranevitter, Augusto, Tiago, Gabi, Koke, Saúl, Thomas, Óliver, Carrasco, Correa, Griezmann, Vietto, Torres.