Barca faces rival Atletico in Champions League quarterfinals

ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 04, 2016 02:42 PM
Barca faces rival Atletico in Champions League quarterfinals
Barcelona's Lionel Messi sits on the ground following a clash during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Barcelona and Real Madrid, dubbed 'el clasico', at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, April 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

TALES AZZONI, AP Sports Writer


MADRID (AP) — The Spanish rivalry between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid returns to the Champions League, this time with gritty Atletico filled with confidence and powerful Barcelona struggling.

The teams have been dueling the entire season in the Spanish league, where Barcelona had been dominant until its title chances were dented by two consecutive setbacks, including a home loss to Real Madrid this weekend.

Atletico routed Real Betis to finally get within range of the league title, and it enters Tuesday's Champions League quarterfinals knowing that Barcelona has lost some of its confidence and can be beaten.

Atletico eliminated Barcelona in the quarterfinals of the 2013-14 season, the only time the teams met in the European tournament. They played to a 1-1 draw in Barcelona and Atletico won 1-0 win in Madrid in the return match, eventually reaching the final and finishing runner-up to city rival Real Madrid.

"Every game against Barcelona is different," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. "We have to prepare as well as possible to be able to reach our goal against them."

With Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar thriving, Barcelona appeared to be cruising toward its goal of repeating last season's treble of capturing the Spanish league, Champions League and Copa del Rey titles.

Two weeks ago, however, the team wasted a 2-0 lead and was forced to settle for a 2-2 draw at Villarreal. Then came the 2-1 loss to Madrid on Saturday.

"This game (against Real Madrid) is already in the past," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. "We hadn't lost in many games, but the loss can also teach you things. We need to keep doing what we were doing well and see in which areas we need to improve."

Here's a look at the other matches this week:

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WOLFSBURG-REAL MADRID

Real Madrid couldn't have asked for a better time to play its match against Wolfsburg in the Champions League quarterfinals.

Madrid's 2-1 win over Barcelona at the Camp Nou on Saturday ended its rival's 39-game unbeaten streak in all competitions and put Madrid back in the title race in the Spanish league.

"It was important to get the win right before our Champions League game in Germany," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said.

Wolfsburg slumped to a 3-0 loss at Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga on Friday. It was the squad's third game without a win, leaving it seven points off the last Champions League qualification spot for next season.

"With a performance like the one against Bayer, or before that at home against Darmstadt, it won't be exciting," Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking said of his side's first Champions League quarterfinal.

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PSG-MANCHESTER CITY

Paris Saint-Germain hosts Manchester City in a matchup between newly rich clubs that are looking to finally break through in the Champions League.

Enjoying nearly unlimited funds from their foreign backers, PSG and City have become two of the wealthiest clubs in the world but have repeatedly failed in Europe's top competition.

Since Qatari investors took over in 2011, PSG has spent heavily to assemble one of the most expensive teams in football. The investment paid dividends on the domestic stage, but Laurent Blanc's team has failed to advance past the Champions League quarterfinals.

With the cash injected by Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, City secured two Premier League titles in 2012 and 2014. But the club had to wait until this year to reach the Champions League's quarterfinals for the first time.

Both PSG and City are in fine form ahead of Wednesday's game. City warmed up with a 4-0 thrashing of Bournemouth this weekend, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic took his league goal tally to 30 with a hat trick in PSG's 4-1 win over Nice.

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BAYERN MUNICH-BENFICA

Bayern will be trying to reach its fifth consecutive Champions League semifinal when it faces Portuguese league leader Benfica on Tuesday.

The German powerhouse kept its treble aspirations on track with a 1-0 home win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga on Saturday, when both Franck Ribery and Mario Goetze underlined their starting credentials with impressive performances in an otherwise flat display by the team.

"The quality won't be enough for Tuesday," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. "We'll have to play much better. We'll need two concentrated outings to then hopefully reach the semifinals."

Benfica warmed up for its trip to Munich with a 5-1 win over Braga, its sixth consecutive victory in the Portuguese league.

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