Copa del Rey: Atletico walking tight rope at Barca

Copa Del Rey By: Ambrose Udeme | 07/02/2017

Copa del Rey: Atletico walking tight rop at Barca

Barcelona hold a 2–1 aggregate advantage as they look to deliver a knockout punch at home for the fourth straight round and continue down the path to a rare Copa del Rey three-peat.

Luis Enrique's men will on Tuesday hope to vanquish visiting Atlético Madrid and continue their chase for a third straight Cup title.

Team News

With the mid-winter calendar ushering in a stretch composed of, arguably, the season’s most crucial matches, not only in the Copa del Rey, but also the UEFA Champions League and La Liga, there’s no time to rest.

The team trained on Sunday morning in a recovery session aimed at turning the page from Saturday’s 3–0 home league win over Athletic Club to Tuesday’s all-important knockout match. Monday was the team’s first and last session fully dedicated to their impending Cup clash.

Two players Rafinha (broken nose) and Neymar (yellow card accumulation) have already been left out for Tuesday's tie. Midfielders Sergio Busquets (ankle) and Andrés Iniesta (calf) are yet to get the green light to return to action, but they did train on Monday and it remains to be seen whether they will be included in the squad.

The names of both Arda Turan and Denis Suárez were floated as possible replacements, although the coach was loath to reveal just how he would fill Neymar’s shoes for fear of tipping his hand to his counterpart, Diego Simeone.

Form Guide

Barcelona are undefeated since 5 January, when they dropped their opening match of 2017, a 2–1 loss at Athletic Club in the first leg of the last 16. Since then, the Catalans have harvested seven wins and two draws from an alternating schedule of La Liga and Copa del Rey fixtures, including home return-leg knockout blows to Athletic Club followed by Real Sociedad in the quarterfinals. The hosts' most recent game was a 3–0 La Liga triumph over Athletic Club on Saturday at Camp Nou.

Atlético Madrid also won in La Liga over the weekend, dispatching visiting Alavés 2–0, at the Estadio Vicente Calderón on Saturday evening.

Last week’s 2–1 first-leg loss to Barcelona at the Calderón snapped what had been a five-game unbeaten streak which included two wins in a row followed by three straight draws.

Head to Head

Barça are looking to eliminate Los Colchoneros from the Copa del Rey for the second time in three seasons. The Blaugranas previously knocked out Atlético in the quarterfinals of the 2014/15 edition.

Tuesday’s Cup clash will be the third meeting between the two clubs this season after a 1–1 draw at Camp Nou in league play on 21 September and last week’s 2–1 Barça victory in the first leg in Madrid.

Both sides are set to face off again in La Liga on 28 February at the Calderón and hypothetically, the pair could meet in later rounds of this season’s UEFA Champions League, in which they both made it through to the last 16.

Barcelona the team with the most wins in Copa del Rey history with 28 are seeking to expand their legendary status even further with a third consecutive title in the 83-team domestic tournament. In fact, the last time any team won three straight Spanish Cup titles came when Barca did it in 1951, 1952, and 1953.

Managers' quotes

Luis Enrique - Barcelona boss

"I have fewer choices than I did in the midfield, for sure. But the options are interesting and I have very good players. We’re going to try and make him think."

Diego Simeone - Atletico boss

"We will play with the same intensity that we have had during the best moments of the season"

The winners of Barca's tie with Atletico will be strong favourites to win the cup, with Alaves and Celta Vigo - who play their second leg on Wednesday - meeting in the other semi-final.