Barcelona will hope to build on their 2-1 advantage over Atletico Madrid on Tuesday as they prepare to face Los Rojiblancos in the second leg of their semi-final in this season’s Copa del Rey.
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi were each on the scoresheet in last Wednesday’s first leg at the Vicente Calderon before Antoine Griezmann rescued what could prove to be a crucial consolation for the Madrid outfit.
Barca return to the Camp Nou on Tuesday hoping to seal their 10th successive result without a loss, while a 2-0 victory over Leganes on Saturday saw manager Diego Simeone’s Atleti side earn their first win in four outings.
With Celta Vigo and Alaves set to clash in the other semi, there’s a fine chance whoever wins this last-four encounter could win the competition, with Atleti the more desperate to claim cup success.
Read on for a preview of Tuesday’s meeting, complete with all the vital viewing information ahead of what promises to be a blockbuster in Barcelona.
Messi scored his fourth free-kick of the season against Athletic on Saturday.Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
After getting their year off to a disappointing start with a 2-1 defeat against Copa del Rey quarter-final opponents Athletic Bilbao, Barca have since enjoyed an inspired patch of form, going nine matches unbeaten in all contests.
Messi has played a major role in that turnaround, and he netted his fourth free-kick of the year in Saturday’s defeat of Athletic, a strike that also saw him become the club’s all-time leading free-kick scorer.
Suarez was rested for the weekend fixture, but Neymar was also at his best alongside Messi, and OptaJose highlighted the Brazilian as one figure around whom Atletico will need to watch their tackles on Tuesday:
After a shaky period in form approaching the winter break, Barca have looked back to their best for most of 2017, and advancing to the Copa del Rey final would be just reward for the progress they’ve shown.
Manager Luis Enrique still won’t be taking their single-goal cushion for granted heading back to the Camp Nou, however, as one of Europe’s greatest powerhouses look to advance to their first final of the season.
Atleti Seeking Solace in Copa del Rey
As powerful as Barcelona look in their current run, there’s a lot to be said for desire in these circumstances, and with their league title charge seemingly over, Atletico have plenty of that in cup competition.
Simeone may have unearthed a secret weapon in the form of Fernando Torres. After bagging a match-winning brace against Leganes, the striker was picked out by Goal’s Ben Hayward as a potential talisman for the trip to Barca:
One figure who will be missing for Los Rojiblancos is midfield veteran Gabi, having picked up his third yellow card of this season’s competition in the first leg against the Blaugrana.
That said, the 33-year-old illustrated some of that desire spoken of earlier when he outlined his intention to travel with the team and hopes they can make the final without him.
Per Ainhoa Sanchez of Spanish newspaper Marca, Gabi said: “I will ask [Simeone] if I can travel and help my team-mates in an important match for us. We are at the gates of the final and, although it will be an uphill battle, we hope to get there.”
With two away goals to Barca’s name, Atleti have an uphill fight on their hands as they look to book their spot in the final, but Simeone’s side are far from our of the running just yet.