Madrid — 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
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
"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."
Also read: Barcelona and Atletico duel for 1st place in Spanish league
Here's a look at the other matches this week:
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.
Paris Saint-Germain hosts Manchester City in a matchup
between newly rich clubs that are looking to finally break through in the
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.
Bayern will be trying to reach its fifth consecutive
Champions League semifinal when it faces Portuguese league leader Benfica on
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
Benfica warmed up for its trip to Munich with a 5-1 win over
Braga, its sixth consecutive victory in the Portuguese league.For
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