Barcelona head to Atletico Madrid for the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tonight aiming to show their campaign is still on track for domestic and European success.
Luis Enrique’s men will defend a 2-1 lead at the Vicente Calderon but head into the tie on the back of successive defeats in La Liga to Real Madrid and Real Sociedad. As a result, Barcelona are now just three points ahead of Atletico and four in front of Real, a slender advantage which could be all but wiped out by the time they kick off against Valencia on Sunday.
Enrique, though, has challenged his team to “show we are the best team in the world” by producing the required response over the closing weeks of the season.
Barcelona fell behind in the first leg as Fernando Torres fired in what could yet prove a priceless away goal for Atletico, only to then get himself sent off for a second caution ahead of half-time. That ultimately swung the balance of the match as Luis Suarez netted a second-half double.
Midfielder Ivan Rakitic believes his Barca team-mates can rise to the challenge once again.
“We will try to look forward and forget [the Sociedad] match. It was a defeat determined by small details,” he said on Canal Plus. “We are all united like a big family. We have to stick with this mentality for the next match. We have no doubt.
Barcelona are set to travel to Madrid without midfielder Rafinha and defender Thomas Vermaelen. Gerard Pique, though, is expected to shake off a hip problem to face Atletico.
“The important game is on Wednesday. That is when we have the most important competition at stake,” Pique said. “No team can do everything perfectly all season. We know what we have to improve on.”
Suarez missed the defeat at Sociedad because of a domestic suspension, while the likes of Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta, and Rakitic all started on the bench. Atletico will be without Torres, who serves a one-match European ban.
Diego Simeone’s men secured a 3-1 away win at Espanyol to put the Barcelona result out of their system.
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