FC Barcelona continue their mission to beome the first team to retain the Champions League on Tuesday night when they welcome Spanish rivals Atletico Madrid to the Camp Nou in the first-leg of their quarter-final clash (19:45).
The La Liga outfits currently occupy the top two spots in the Spanish top-flight, with tonight’s hosts sitting six points clear, whilst fellow giants Real Madrid are another point behind in third place.
However league leaders Barcelona will be looking to return to winning ways – a rare circumstance for the Catalans – after Luis Enrique’s men suffered a 2-1 defeat to arch rivals Real Madrid in the El Clasico on Saturday, a loss that halted their spectacular 39-match unbeaten run.
Los Rojiblancos knocked out the defending champions at the same stage of the competition during the 2013-14 campaign – which was the only occasion both teams have met in Europe’s elite-club tournament.
But having already lifted the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup so far this term, Barcelona are still well on course to win five trophies this season, with their Champions League match against Atletico next up having also reached the Copa del Rey final this year.
Tuesday night’s tie will be the 13th meeting between these two Spanish clubs in less than three years; with Barcelona romping to six straight wins in their last six meetings, although Atletico’s last taste of success against the Camp Nou outfit was in the Champions League last-eight back in April 2014.
The spotlight will be certainly directed in Lionel Messi’s direction as the Argentine ace goes in search of his 500th senior career goal tonight.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner currently has 499 strikes to his name, with 25 of those coming against Los Rojiblancos in just 28 games – his favourite opponent alongside fellow La Liga club Sevilla.
Messi, alongside lethal attacking teammates Neymar and Luis Suarez, have bagged a remarkable 107 goals between them in all competitions already this campaign and are all expected to feature at the Camp Nou against Atletico.
However the deadly trio will have to be in top-notch form considering the away side have kept an impressive 13 clean sheets in their last 17 Champions League outings, with star goalkeeper Jan Oblak conceding just four times in 11 ties since 2015.
Boss Enrique has won all 10 of his Champions League games at the Nou Camp as Barcelona manager, seeing his team score 27 goals and concede just five times during that process – an all-time record for the Catalans in the tournament.
Opposing manager Diego Simeone will be have his fingers crossed that winger Antoine Griezmann can maintain his splendid run of form in front of goal, with the France international netting eight times in his last nine appearances for club and country.
Barca boss Enrique is without winger Aleix Vidal (hip) for tonight’s Champions League clash, joining fellow teammates Adriano, Jeremy Mathieu and Sandro Ramirez on the sidelines.
Meanwhile rivals Atletico could be without centre-halves Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez (both hamstrings), with the duo likely to face late fitness tests.
However the game is set to come too soon for the visitors’ injury-hit list of Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Saul Niguez (both ankle), Oliver Torres (groin), Tiago (leg), Lucas Hernandez (back) and Jesus Gamez (calf).
League Position: Barcelona – 1st (La Liga – 76 pts); Atletico – 2nd (La Liga – 70 pts)
Previous Meeting: Barcelona 2-1 Atletico – January 30, 2016 (La Liga)
Form: Barcelona – WWWWDL; Atletico – WWWDLW
Key Men: Barcelona – Lionel Messi; Atletico – Antoine Griezmann
Shoot Says: Barcelona 2-1 Atletico