Simeone needs a win over Luis Enrique to oust Barcelona
ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 12, 2016 07:38 PM
Atletico's coach Diego Simeone gestures while Barcelona’s coach Luis Enrique, right, looks on during a Champions League quarter-final, first leg soccer match between FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday April 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
TALES AZZONI, AP Sports Writer
MADRID (AP) — Diego Simeone needs to find a way to beat Luis Enrique, because only a win will be enough.
Atletico Madrid will face Barcelona in the quarterfinals of the Champions League on Wednesday, a week after losing to the defending champions 2-1 in the first leg.
Simeone's Atletico has lost all seven matches against Barcelona since Luis Enrique took over the club in 2014. The Argentine's overall record as a coach against the Catalan club boasts only one win in 16 games.
Simeone's defensive-minded style has succeeded against most teams across Europe, but not when facing Luis Enrique's Barcelona.
Atletico has lost every league game, and two Copa del Rey matches, after Luis Enrique's arrival in Catalonia. He had not yet taken the job when Atletico eliminated Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals in 2014.
The only time Simeone succeeded was when Luis Enrique was in charge of Celta Vigo, winning their two encounters.
Last week's loss was certainly one of the toughest for Simeone, who saw Atletico dominate and open a 1-0 lead at the Camp Nou until Fernando Torres' sending off in the 35th minute allowed Barcelona to mount a comeback.
"We played a fantastic first half up to 30 minutes. In the second half, we tried to stay alive for the second leg," Simeone said. "We are still alive. I imagine the Calderon packed and chanting throughout the whole game with enthusiasm."
Atletico is trying to return to the semifinals for the first time since the runner-up finish to Real Madrid in 2014, when it eliminated Barcelona after a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou and a 1-0 win at the Calderon. Atletico is the only team to have kept Barcelona from reaching the semifinals in the last eight seasons.
Only twice the Catalan club has failed to advance after winning the first leg in its previous 40 attempts in UEFA competitions, but Atletico has to remain optimistic after reversing 2-1 first-leg losses five out of six times it happened in European competitions.
A draw on Wednesday will be enough to keep alive Barcelona's hopes of repeating the treble of Spanish league, Copa del Rey and Champions League titles.
"We are still close to reaching our goals," Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said. "We depend on ourselves."
Here are some things to know about Wednesday's match:
The intense first leg at the Camp Nou heightened the rivalry between the Spanish clubs, which are also in a close fight for the Spanish league title with only a few matches left.
Barcelona's big lead dwindled to three points last weekend after a third consecutive game without a victory, while Atletico is continuing to pick up wins and gain confidence.
"We know what we have to do," Atletico defender Lucas Hernandez said. "We know that we must go step by step and it is the only way to move forward, going step by step. Now we have to play a very important match and we'll see what happens."
Shy of his 500th career goal, Lionel Messi is enduring his worst scoring slump with Barcelona in five years.
He hasn't found the net in 362 minutes, since the 3-1 win over Arsenal in the round of 16 of the Champions League.
But the playmaker has to be upbeat with his chances of ending the streak on Wednesday against Atletico, a team in which he has scored 25 goals in 29 matches, including three hat tricks. No other player has scored more goals against Atletico.
Atletico Madrid needs at least a goal to have a chance to eliminate Barcelona on Wednesday, and France striker Antoine Griezmann will be the one carrying most of the responsibility for finding the net at the Vicente Calderon.
Griezmann has scored eight goals in the last seven league games for Atletico. He is the team's leading scorer in both the Champions League and the Spanish league.
In addition to missing Fernando Torres, Simeone likely will also be without defenders Jose Maria Gimenez and Stefan Savic because of injuries. The good news is that midfielder Oliver Torres has recovered from a muscle ailment and could be available.
Barcelona is set to miss Brazilian midfielder Rafinha and Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen, also because of injuries. Gerard Pique, who was nursing a hip ailment, is expected to play.
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni