Prior to today’s Copa del Rey quarter-final against Barcelona (4pm ET on beIN SPORTS in the USA), manager Diego Simeone had been reportedly been training his squad with an attacking trident formed by Fernando Torres, Antoine Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic. But it has been learned that the Argentine boss has elected to start Fernando Torres up front, with Griezmann playing just behind the striker, while Mandzukic will be begin the match as a substitute.
Torres and Griezmann started for Atletico during the second leg of their decisive Round of 16 encounter against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu last week. But that decision was partially-based on the fact that Mandzukic was unavailable for the contest due to illness.
The Spanish publication AS believes that Simeone has opted for a starting eleven of:
Oblak, Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Siqueira, Mario Suarez, Gabi, Koke, Arda Turan, Griezmann and Torres.
Programming note: If you live in the United States, the game is being televised on beIN SPORTS and beIN SPORTS Español as well as being streamed live on DishWorld. If you don’t have a TV subscription to beIN SPORTS, you can watch Barcelona versus Atletico Madrid live on DishWorld for just $10 per month. The service streams the beIN broadcast in HD to your computer, tablet or smartphone. And set-up just takes minutes. Read our review of DishWorld. And sign up for DishWorld via their website.
On the other side of the pitch, Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has reportedly been handed a fitness boost as influential midfielder Xavi Hernandez is likely to return to La Blaugrana’s bench for the first leg of this Copa del Rey quarter-final at the Camp Nou. But the match may come too soon for forward Munir El Haddadi, who played for Barca B this weekend in an attempt to increase his match fitness.
While Enrique’s starting eleven has yet to be determined, the 18-man squad he will choose from will be:
Ter Stegen, Masip (goalkeepers); Dani Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Barta, Jordi Alba and Adriano (defenders); Busquets, Xavi, Rakitic, Rafinha and Sergi Roberto (midfielders); Pedro, Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi (strikers).
Undoubtedly, Barcelona players will still have their 3-1 victory over Atletico from ten days ago fresh in their minds. But Enrique is aware of the threat the reigning La Liga champions pose and is leery of his opponents’ qualities.
“They are difficult opponents,” the Barcelona manager said during his pre-match press conference on Tuesday. “Being a two-legged tie, it affords us an opportunity to study what we do in the first leg and implement it for the second leg.”
“They are very strong defensively and in attack. I envisage a game similar to the recent ones.”
Regarding the recent 3-1 win in the league, Enrique responded: “This will have nothing to do with the tie, but it’s a good psychological advantage for us.”
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