Barcelona, April 4 (IANS) Catalan football giants Barcelona have to put memories of their Clasico defeat against Real Madrid behind them and recover quickly from their tired legs when they take on Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final here on Tuesday night.
Although the defeat to Real Madrid hurt Barcelona fans, most would say that their lead in the La Liga means Tuesday’s game is the most important of the two. But they must be worried by the image the Catalans gave at the weekend against their traditional rivals in the Camp Nou Stadium, reports Xinhua news agency.
Key footballers such as Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez all looked tired after the international break, while midfielders Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta were also off the pace as was Arda Turan when he replaced Ivan Rakitic.
Neymar, Messi and Suarez will all start again, with the doubt that the three days between games has given them the time to recover, but elsewhere Luis Enrique’s options are limited.
The knee injury suffered by Jeremy Mathieu means Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano only have Thomas Vermaelan as a possible replacement in the defence and the Belgian is not up to facing top level rivals these days.
One area where the Barcelona coach could think about making a change is at right back with Aleix Vidal stepping in to replace Dani Alves, who was at fault for Madrid’s winning goal, while the adaptable Sergi Roberto could see his energy used to good effect in midfield.
Atletico come into the game in apparently better shape than Barcelona after kicking off their weekend match early on Saturday afternoon and enjoying a comfortable 5-1 win at home over Betis.
The result allowed coach Diego Simeone, who has seen his side lose twice to Barcelona this season, to rest key players in the second half and Atletico should be in better physical shape for what promises to be a demanding tie.
The main problem for Atletico is the probable absence of central defenders Diego Godin, Jose Gimenez and Stefan Savic through injury, meaning that youngsters Lucas Hernandez and Nacho will face Barcelona, unless Saul Niguez drops back to carry out defensive duties.
Lucas and Nacho had few problems against Betis. But Messi, Suarez and Neymar are a different prospect, providing of course they are fit themselves.
Zidane changed the way I saw football: Ancelotti
Madrid, April 4 (IANS) Veteran Italian football manager Carlo Ancelotti revealed that Real Madrid’s manager Zinedine Zidane changed the way he thought about the game, prompting a tactical shift that dramatically altered the course of his coaching career.
The Italian manager took charge of Serie A champions Juventus in 1999, intent on using his preferred 4-4-2 formation.
The formation change failed to yield any trophies during the former Italy international’s two-season stint with them. But Ancelotti’s 4-3-1-2 formation proved incredibly successful with his next club, AC Milan, with whom he won eight trophies in eight years.
“The first time that I met Zinedine Zidane was in the first year in Juventus and I found a fantastic player,” Ancelotti was quoted as saying by goal.com on Sunday.
Ancelotti feels that he owes Zidane, whom he later employed as his assistant coach at Real Madrid, a huge debt of gratitude.
“Zidane was the key for me to change my idea of football because I was always used to playing 4-4-2. At Juventus I changed my system, to play a player like him behind two strikers because I didn’t want to change the position. He was really fantastic,” the 56-year-old said.
Atletico defender Godin declared fit for Barcelona tie
Madrid, April 4 (IANS) Atletico Madrid’s Uruguayan defender Diego Godin on Monday received the go-ahead and is available for Tuesday’s first leg of the European Champions League quarter-finals against Barcelona at the Camp Nou stadium.
Atletico announced that Godin, who sustained a thigh injury on March 15 in the Champions League last 16 against Eindhoven, has been declared fit, reports Efe.
Atletico’s full squad will travel to Barcelona, including injured Tiago Mendes, Jose Gimenez and Oliver Torres, along with Luciano Vietto, who is recovering from gastroenteritis.
Godin has been training with his teammates since last Thursday, while both Montenegrin Stefan Savic and Belgian Yannick Carrasco joined Sunday’s group training session in preparation for Tuesday’s clash.
Agent says midfielder Yaya Toure will leave Man City
London, April 4 (IANS) Four-time African footballer of the year Yaya Toure’s agent has confirmed that the veteran midfielder will leave Manchester City this summer.
The 32-year-old’s contract expires in June and that is set to bring an end to his six-year trophy-laden spell at the Manchester club.
Toure’s agent, Dimitri Seluk, has been negotiating with City officials in recent weeks but they have decided to pursue interests elsewhere.
“He’ll definitely leave Manchester City, I can calmly confirm that,” Seluk was quoted as saying by dailymail.co.uk on Sunday.
“Various offers have arrived for Yaya and we’re evaluating them, but no decision has been taken yet for next season.”
Doubt was cast over Toure’s City future with the announcement that Bayern Munich head coach Pep Guardiola is to take over from Manuel Pellegrini at the end of the season.
Guardiola was the coach who sold Toure to City from Barcelona in 2010. Toure was prepared to play for the incoming City coach, but has now made the decision to move on.
He would be happy to join another English Premier League (EPL) club and is likely to shun a big money move to China or the Middle East.
“Will the economic aspect make the difference? Absolutely not,” Seluk said. “We don’t put money before everything but the project the club presents us. The best will convince us.”
Another option is reuniting with former City coach Roberto Mancini, who signed Toure at the start of his three-and-a-half year spell in charge of City, at Inter Milan, an idea Toure is open to.
Seluk added: “Inter? We’re definitely talking about a great club and everyone knows about the relationship between Yaya and Mancini. But like I’ve already said we haven’t made any decision yet.
“But I’ll add that the Nerazzurri’s project is great and Inter is a fantastic club. So it’s normal that they want a player of this level.”