Atlético Madrid face an uphill battle at Camp Nou on Tuesday. After losing the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal, Atlético travel to Barcelona behind 2-1 on aggregate. Diego Simeone’s side needs a 2-1 win of their own to force extra time or a two-goal victory of any kind to win the tie outright. Against Barça at Camp Nou - where Atleti haven't won in more than a decade - it’s gonna be tough.
You’ve seen the rojiblanco perspective on the second leg in the pages of this site, but how about the blaugrana perspective? I spoke to Barça Blaugranes’ Renato Gonçalves to get the enemy angle.
How nervous/excited are you?
I'm always nervous when we have to play Atlético. It's never fun, it's never enjoyable, win, lose or draw. The first leg result is a very good one and two away goals are massively important, but that doesn't mean Atleti can't come to Camp Nou and do the same. Simeone is Simeone, the team is very good, and I'm never confident that Barça can win it. So yeah, pretty nervous, not at all excited.
Neymar will miss out after picking up a yellow card in the first leg. How much will he be missed?
If this was 2016, not at all. But 2017 Neymar is back to his best. He's playing amazing right now, and he practically beat Athletic Bilbao by himself on Saturday despite not scoring a goal. His skills are back, his passing is back, his attitude is much better and his goal drought will end pretty soon. But Arda Turan is having an awesome season as Neymar's immediate replacement, so for this game he'll do the job just fine.
Ah, Arda. We do love him here. (We do not love him here.) Anyway, Sergio Busquets and Andrés Iniesta are set to play. Surely, this means Barcelona's midfield will be even better than it was in the first leg?
Oh yeah, definitely. Iniesta may not start, but Busquets is the most important player on the team. Not the best, the most important. I've always believed that and I still do. He's the reason why the whole team works. He helps with the buildup when we play from the back, he links up play very well with his short and long passing, he anticipates opponent's attacks and cuts them out at the source, which keeps Barça very close to the opponent's box. Busi is incredible at what he does, and Iniesta is simply magical and can change any game, which could be the case if he comes on in the second half.
Let's say you were to be pessimistic about this second leg, even after the great result last week. How could Barça blow this? Who do you fear could spring to life for Atlético?
I think an early goal would be something that would probably make the crowd and the team a little nervous, and it would give Atleti the chance to press hard and try to score a second goal still in the first half. Let's say Atleti get a 2-0 lead in 20 minutes and then set up to defend for their lives in the final 70. We all know how good you are at that, so that'd be a circumstance Barça will be looking to avoid. The first goal is always giant in every match, but it's even bigger in this one.
I think we're going through in a very tough match, but we do win 2-1 again.