Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid: Five key personal battles

Lionel Messi 2

The Spanish sides meet in the Champions League quarter-finals first leg tonight at Camp Nou.

In years gone by Barcelona would be expected to be too strong for Atletico, however the capital city side have proven themselves as a real threat both domestically and on the continent this term.

The Catalans will hope to take full advantage of playing the first leg at home here, with Diego Simeone’s men having their work cut out to stop a wonderfully gifted attacking opponent.

Here are the personal battles that will shape the tie.

Lionel Messi vs the Atletico Madrid defence

As always, Lionel Messi will be the major threat for Barcelona, with the false nine drifting all over the opposition half to pick up space.

As such, the entire Atletico defence will come into contact with the mercurial Argentine at one point or another and will need to work together to stop him.

Simeone has stressed the importance of pressing opposition and urged his side to be strong in the tackle – something that is required tonight if Messi is to be limited as an attacking force.

Gerard Pique vs Diego Costa

At the other end of the pitch, Diego Costa has been getting all the headlines as the man leading the Atletico line and will look to find valuable away goals here.

International team-mate Gerard Pique will be up against the deceptively strong and quick forward, in what should be an enticing match-up.

Real Madrid showed that Barcelona can be susceptible to crosses in the recent Clasico, and Costa will provide an aerial threat here.

Xavi vs Koke

This will be a match-up of the best of two generations of Spanish midfielders, with the master going up against a man tipped to replace him at national level in the long run.

Xavi is still the heartbeat of Barcelona tiki-taka style and will look to dominate proceedings against a determined Atletico midfield.

Koke continues to impress and will have a chance to push a strong claim for World Cup inclusion with a good performance against an established opponent.

Neymar vs Filipe Luis

A battle of two Brazilians, Neymar will most likely line up on the right for Barcelona and look to move in-field to link up with Messi.

This will mean tha Filipe Luis will need to be at his best in trying to ensure the former Santos star plays a periphery role.

The visiting left-back has a real turn of pace and will look to take advantage of Neymar’s reluctance to defend when Atletico have the ball.

Jordi Alba vs Arda Turan

On the other flank, Arda Turan is one of the unsung heroes in Atletico’s attacking play, with the Turk able to cut open opposition defences with his precise play.

Alba is an excellent attacking full-back and as such it will be a match-up of two very dynamic and forward thinking players.

Turan has a wicked shot from range and his movement off the ball gets him into dangerous attacking positions; Alba should have his hands full here.

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