The draw for the quarter finals of the Champions League certainly threw up a few intriguing ties this week, none more so intriguing than Barcelona’s match-up with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday. With plenty of talking points going into this week’s game, we assess both sides’ chances and attempt to conjure up some betting value in the process.
El Clasico Woe
Cristiano Ronaldo’s late El Clasico winner certainly wasn’t in the script going into this weekend’s prestigious Spanish derby. With Barca cruising at the summit of the La Liga Primera Division and their unofficially titled ‘MSN’ (Messi, Neymar, Suarez) trio completely on song at the moment, it was a valid presumption that the home side would cruise to victory on Saturday night, especially given the manner of which they disposed of Real 4-0 at the Bernebau back in November.
Given the extra emphasis placed on any El Clasico tie, it would be unfair to accuse Barca players of having ‘other things on their mind’ with their crucial Champions League clash with Atleti on the horizon, although you could make a case for complacency creeping in given their gratuitous 9 point lead at the top of the La Liga table going into the game.
Whilst Saturday’s defeat is by no means a disaster, we should be mindful that Luis Enrique’s men are likely to be a bit more wary than usual in Tuesday’s 7.45 kick-off.
Atletico – the defensive powerhouses
Although they still go into this tie as 1/2 favourites, Tuesday’s match will not by any means be straight forward for the Spanish champions.
Unlike the Barca-Real derby that has produced an array of goal-feasts over the years, we feel the cupboard may be slightly bare in the goal-scoring stakes this Tuesday when you consider Atletico’s quite ludicrous defensive record in the Primera Division.
Diego Simeone’s men have conceded just 16 goals in Spain’s top flight this season and thanks to their local rivals’ smash and grab in Catalonia on Saturday, have closed the gap between themselves and Barca to just 6 points in the La Liga table following their 5-1 win against Real Betis at the weekend.
Although they’ve been powerless to prevent some of their finest attacking talent get cherry-picked by Europe’s elite clubs over the years (Radamel Falcao, Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa to name a few), their strong defensive rearguard is one thing that has always remained a constant.
Where does the betting value lie?
The last time these two clubs actually met domestically, it was Barca who ran out narrow 2-1 winners at the Nou camp thanks to a 38th minute winner from Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez back in January.
Despite their El Clasico woe on Saturday, we still fancy Tuesday’s match to follow a similar path to what it did just three months ago with a 2-1 Barcelona victory our prediction for the game.
Should their opponents lose out at the Nou Camp, you’d argue it certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world from an Atleti standpoint if they can (as we’re tipping) grab a crucial away goal to take back to the Spanish capital with them.