Atletico and Barca battle it out for Cup final place
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DUSHANBE, 31.01.2017. /NIAT Khovar/. Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona go head to head in the Vicente Calderon in the first leg of their King's Cup semi-final on Wednesday night with both sides knowing the competition is their best chance of winning silverware this season, Xinhua news agency writes.
Two consecutive draws for Atletico in the Liga Santander have seen Diego Simeone's side slip to 10 points behind league leaders, Real Madrid, who also have a game, while Barca's draw to Betis has left them four points off the top of the table with an extra game played.
The tie is a repeat of last season's Champions League quarter-final which saw Atletico come out on top, but Simeone has problems at the moment as his players look to recover the defensive meanness which made them so hard to beat in previous seasons.
Atletico seem to be torn between the desire to play the attacking football players such as Yannick Carrasco, Koke, Antoine Griezmann, Nico Gaitan and Kevin Gameiro are capable of, or the defensive game, typified by players such as Gabi and Diego Godin.
Gabi will return after suspension on Wednesday, but Atletico have to deal with a long injury list which includes, Tiago, Augusto Fernandez and Jose Gimenez, who left the field in tears on Saturday after suffering a muscle problem.
Barca reserved some key players in their 1-1 draw away to Betis on Sunday and will have Samuel Umtiti, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto and probably Andre Gomez back in their starting 11 in the Calderon.
Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta will both miss out through injury and Barca coach Luis Enrique has the problem of finding a replacement for Busquets after Ivan Rakitic disappointed in the role at the weekend.
Javier Mascherano could play in central midfield, which would take fluidity out of Barca's game, but make them tougher to break down and if that is the case Wednesday could see a war of attrition in the Calderon with everything to be decided the following week in the Camp Nou.
Source: National information agency of Tajikistan