Barcelona, April 4 (IANS) Catalan football giants Barcelona have to put memories of their Clasico defeat against Real Madrid behind them and recover quickly from their tired legs when they take on Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final here on Tuesday night.
Although the defeat to Real Madrid hurt Barcelona fans, most would say that their lead in the La Liga means Tuesday’s game is the most important of the two. But they must be worried by the image the Catalans gave at the weekend against their traditional rivals in the Camp Nou Stadium, reports Xinhua news agency.
Key footballers such as Neymar, Lionel Messi, and Luis Suarez all looked tired after the international break while midfielders Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta were also off the pace as was Arda Turan when he replaced Ivan Rakitic.
Neymar, Messi, and Suarez will all start again, with the doubt that the three days between games has given them the time to recover, but elsewhere Luis Enrique’s options are limited.
The knee injury suffered by Jeremy Mathieu means Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano only have Thomas Vermaelen as a possible replacement in the defence and the Belgian is not up to facing top-level rivals these days.
One area where the Barcelona coach could think about making a change is at right back with Aleix Vidal stepping in to replace Dani Alves, who was at fault for Madrid’s winning goal while the adaptable Sergi Roberto could see his energy used to good effect in midfield.
Atletico comes into the game in apparently better shape than Barcelona after kicking off their weekend match early on Saturday afternoon and enjoying a comfortable 5-1 win at home over Betis.
The result allowed coach Diego Simeone, who has seen his side lose twice to Barcelona this season, to rest key players in the second half and Atletico should be in better physical shape for what promises to be a demanding tie.
The main problem for Atletico is the probable absence of central defenders Diego Godin, Jose Gimenez and Stefan Savic through injury, meaning that youngsters Lucas Hernandez and Nacho will face Barcelona unless Saul Niguez drops back to carry out defensive duties.
Lucas and Nacho had few problems against Betis. But Messi, Suarez, and Neymar are a different prospect, providing, of course, they are fit themselves.