Philippe Coutinho, Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique set to be named in Barcelona's starting XI against Atletico Madrid

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Philippe Coutinho, Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique are expected to return to the starting line-up when Barcelona take on Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou on Sunday.

Aside from the injured Nelson Semedo, Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has a full deck of cards to select from as the Catalan giants look to extend their unbeaten run at the top of the La Liga table.

Coutinho is likely to come into the midfield for Aleix Vidal – who played 57 minutes in Thursday’s 1-1 draw against Las Palmas, before being replaced by the Brazilian.

With Semedo ruled out for five weeks with a hamstring injury, Sergi Roberto will start at left back, with Alba to come in at right back after returning from suspension.

Gerard Pique, rested on Thursday, will return to the starting XI to partner Samuel Umtiti in central defence.

Barcelona drew 1-1 at Atletico in the first meeting between the two teams back in October – so expect another close encounter.

POSSIBLE BARCELONA XI

Barcelona (4-4-2): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Coutinho, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez

Most popular

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane waiting on fitness of midfield duo ahead of trip to Paris

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is still waiting on the fitness of midfield duo Luka Modric and Toni Kroos as he switched his attention to Tuesday’s Champions League showdown with Paris St Germain after seeing off Getafe.

Modric and Kroos were absent again through injury as Madrid defeated 10-man Getafe at the Bernabeu thanks to a brace of goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and another from Gareth Bale.

The derby victory saw Madrid bounce back from their shock midweek defeat to Espanyol and Zidane admits it was crucial they picked up the three points ahead of their trip to Paris.

He told a press conference: “Before a second-leg game like Tuesday it was very important to have three days in a good mood.

“When you lose it’s tough. It was very important to win. We played a very serious game.”

Madrid welcomed back Marcelo as a second-half substitute against Getafe following injury, but it remains to be seen if key duo Modric and Kroos will be able to face PSG, when Zidane’s holders will defend a 3-1 lead as they seek a quarter-final place.

Zidane said: “They still haven’t trained with us, we’ll have to see if they do tomorrow.

“I will never rue having players absent. They are important players but we have to look to Tuesday’s game. If they can’t be with us, then someone else will play.

“We have two days to see how Luka and Toni will be.”

Madrid’s win over Getafe saw them move to within seven points of second-placed Atletico Madrid in LaLiga, with their neighbours taking on leaders Barcelona on Sunday.

Bale’s strike put Madrid on their way but it was Ronaldo who again took centre-stage with a brace, with his first seeing him reach 300 LaLiga goals in only his 286th game.

The Portugal star, who has now scored 14 goals in his last eight appearances, was replaced late on and looked to be holding an ice pack over his calf as he sat on the bench.

Zidane, however, said: “He’s going to be in Paris and I’m very happy because he is going through a very good moment. You need to take advantage.”

Los Blancos captain Sergio Ramos added of the PSG game on his club’s website: “We already know what the Champions League means to us.

“We played a good game in the first leg and now we are going to Paris to try to play with the same seriousness.

“We know it’s going to be complicated, but that is our goal.

“We expect to face a very tough team in front of us and we will have to have the maximum concentration, play like we did here at home and will try to use our weapons to get through.”

Getafe coach Jose Bordalas, meanwhile, accepted his team had little answer to the man of the moment.

“Cristiano Ronaldo can win you a game by himself. He is a great player who makes goals with ease,” Bordalas said at a press conference.
“We knew Real Madrid were going to get the best and so it has turned out.

“We were not at our usual level defensively and have paid a very expensive price.”

Most popular

Atletico Madrid's AG/DC partnership of Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa can rock Barcelona

Andy West 3/03/2018
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Atletico Madrid pair Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann

Over recent years, the Spanish media has developed a habit of coining ‘amusing’ nicknames for strike forces at major clubs.

First we had the BBC in Madrid (Benzema, Bale, Cristiano), soon followed by MSN at Barcelona (Messi, Suarez, Neymar).

And now, in homage to the legendary Australian hard rock band, we’ve been given the most tenuous nickname of them all for Atletico Madrid’s frontline: AG/DC.

Today, Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa will attempt to send Barcelona on the ‘Highway to Hell’, knowing that their defence is in safe hands ‘Back in (O)black’ and hoping that the midfield battle will be won by ‘A Whole Lotta Koke’.

Enough. But behind the silly puns, there lies some serious substance because the AG/DC forward line is looking very good indeed, revitalising the title race and breathing fresh life into an Atletico team which not long ago appeared to be floundering, failing to reach the Champions League knockout rounds and being humiliated in the Copa del Rey by Sevilla.

Atletico had to be very patient with Costa, as FIFA’s transfer ban ensured the combustible former Chelsea man was forced to wait until January before he could make his second debut.

But the 2014 title-winner was worth waiting for, especially for Griezmann who has finally found the reliable attacking partner he has been lacking throughout his time at the club.

With the likes of Fernando Torres, Kevin Gameiro, Angel Correa and Yannick Carrasco only ever performing in fits and starts, Griezmann was forced to bear the burden of carrying the forward line almost alone for far too long.

Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres

Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres

Earlier this season it looked like the French forward had stayed with Atletico for one season too many, having spurned Manchester United’s advances in the summer but looking a shadow of the player who had earned a reputation as one of the best forwards in the world.

But now the snarling, aggressive and brutally effective presence of Costa – every central defender’s worst nightmare – is finally giving Griezmann some support, providing a focal point of the attack which the Frenchman can play around and feed off, rather than having to do it all by himself.

The addition of Costa has truly liberated Griezmann, who is in the best form of his life after blasting home seven goals in his last two games, helping Atletico achieve highly impressive victories over Sevilla (5-2) and Leganes (4-0).

One of his goals at Sevilla epitomised Griezmann’s soaring levels of confidence. Running at full pace onto a loose ball on the edge of the box, with Costa single-handedly occupying all ten Sevilla outfield players (or so it seemed), Griezmann took a nimble touch before exploding a sumptuous drive into the top right corner.

On Sunday, Griezmann will attempt to maintain that form and gun down a Barcelona team he is strongly expected to join in the summer, with the Camp Nou making no secret of their intentions to capture the striker in a €100 million transfer.

Before, then, though, Griezmann has unfinished business with Atletico. He is regularly confronted by the criticism that, for all his talent, he has not yet won a major trophy. That would obviously be one of his major motivations for moving to Barcelona, but first he wants to leave his current club on a high by pulling off a remarkable raid for La Liga.

Victory at Camp Nou would leave Atletico just two points behind the leaders, and swing the momentum firmly in their favour.

And on current form we can be certain of one thing: Atletico are ready crank it up in their pursuit of glory. Just like AG/DC.

Most popular