It’s sweet that Barcelona manager Luis Enrique told the press he would have preferred not to meet Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.
“You are bound to meet a tough opponent like Atletico Madrid when you reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League,” he said.
“Nobody wanted to play against a team from the same country, but I think it was inevitable because we have so many good Spanish teams. I think it can be a positive that we know Atletico very well. Both teams have no surprises for each other.
“Of course, we were hoping for an easier opponent, but you will have to beat all rivals if you are to win the Champions League. All that matters is making it to the final.”
Enrique’s comments can be taken a few different ways: one, he acknowledges how tough Atleti has been this season, and he recognizes that Diego Simeone’s side has winning the CL title very much in their sights. However, comments to the press are never as revealing as we want them to be. It is not accurate to say Enrique fears Atletico Madrid.
After all, Atleti has not beaten Barcelona successfully in the past two seasons, although Atletico beat Barcelona in the quarter-final stage of the 2013-14 tournament. That said, that was pre-MSN, and Barcelona of course coasted to the Champions League win last season.
As Enrique notes, “I think it can be a positive that we know Atletico very well. Both teams have no surprises for each other.”
There shouldn’t be surprises anyway when you have former Atleti midfielder Arda Turan in your camp.
Arda Turan in his better days.
Turkush news outlet The Daily Sabah reported that Barcelona director Javier Bordas said he thought Arda will make the difference for Barcelona.
“Barcelona lost to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final in 2014 when Arda Turan was playing in Atletico Madrid. Now he plays for us,” Bordas said, as though that meant Barcelona would automatically win simply because they now have Arda, which it certainly does not. Arda Turan is not a talisman.
For Aleti’s part, Simeone, who was interviewed by La Nacion, who ran the interview accompanied by a weird photo of him grilling of a ton of meat (on second thought, maybe it was cleverly metaphorical), emphasized, as always, that it’s about the whole team and not the individual parts, a familiar Simeone refrain. (Translations from ESPN.)”Even though it is repetitive to say it, no individual is more important than the team. Not even in the case of Lionel [Messi,] because even though he’s the best, he improved even more when [Luis] Suarez and Neymar reached the level of performance they have now. This strengthens our belief that even the best players in the world need other players around them.
“When I hear other coaches say that Atletico has a certain style of play, that makes me happy,” he said. “It is not easy to have a style. It can mean having various functions — we can play a 4-4-2, 4-3-3 for 20 minutes and then vary that to a 4-5-1 with more defense on the sides or finish with five in the back. But our style of play is absolutely notable, even though the form varies.”
The Champions League quarter-final matches will be played on April 5 (at Camp Nou) and April 13 (at the Vicente Calderon).