Cristiano Ronaldo revelled in the glory of scoring a hat-trick to inspire a stunning Real Madrid comeback to reach the Champions League semi-finals with a 3-2 aggregate victory over Wolfsburg on Tuesday night while Manchester City made the last four of the competition for the first time with a 1-0 win over PSG.
And Sport360 has dissected the drama through our online gallery.
Everyone knows how Barcelona will play – they play the same way every week. But that cannot be said of their opponents, who employ a wide variety of tactics depending upon the game plan devised by Diego Simeone. Atletico can vary between 4-4-2 and 4-3-3, opting for aggressive high-pressing or patient counter-attacking. How well they can counter the system employed on this occasion will be crucial for Barca’s success.
MESSI BACK TO HIS BEST?
Lionel Messi’s productivity has dropped alarmingly recently, with Barca’s superstar failing to score a single goal or register an assist in his team’s last four games – in sharp contrast, he scored seven and assisted three in the previous four outings.
We all know that Messi’s dip in form is only temporary and that he will return to his best sooner rather than later. His brilliance is such that if he sparkles again tonight, Barcelona will go through.
BARCA’S PROBLEMS WITH CROSSES
Four of the last five goals conceded by Barcelona (scored by Villarreal, Real Madrid twice and Real Sociedad) have come directly from crosses, with the relative lack of height in Barca’s back four repeatedly exposed. Injuries to Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen have prevented Luis Enrique from addressing the issue and, with excellent crossers Filipe Luis and especially Juanfran at their disposal, attacking width could be highly fruitful for Atletico.
CAN SIMEONE OVERCOME ENRIQUE?
In the seven meetings between the teams since Luis Enrique moved to Barcelona 18 months ago, Diego Simeone has lost every single time. He might not admit it publicly but that will be a sore point for the proud Argentine, who values his reputation as a master tactician. The Atletico boss will be determined to find a formula to finally taste success against his Nou Camp adversary.
Fernando Torres is missing for Atletico following his red card in last week’s first leg, and the veteran’s absence is a blow considering his excellent recent form with four goals in his last five games. But Rojiblancos have plenty of options, with Yannick Carrasco, Angel Correa, Luciano Vietto and Thomas Partey all vying for a starting place. Whoever gets the nod will have a huge role to aid leading scorer and key frontman Antoine Griezmann.
LACK OF OPTIONS FOR ENRIQUE
With Rafinha injured again, Arda Turan badly out of form and Munir El Haddadi rarely trusted in big occasions, Luis Enrique has very few attacking options if things aren’t going well. If Barca’s superstar trident is firing, they are the best option in the world, of course. But if Atletico go ahead and the visitors need a goal, the only ‘Plan B’ available to Enrique is to keep on hoping that ‘Plan A’ starts to work because looking at the bench there’s not much choice.