Barcelona: Barcelona’s 39-match unbeaten run may have ended with Saturday’s home defeat by Real Madrid but the European champions are adamant it was a temporary blip on their road to more glory.
Atletico Madrid will have taken real heart from their neighbours’ 2-1 victory at the Nou Camp as they go to the same venue in tonight’s Champions League quarter-final, first leg believing they can repeat their triumph over Barca at the same stage in 2014.
Yet, as the shockwaves reverberated through the European game after Barcelona’s late setback against 10-man Real, Barca captain Andres Iniesta told reporters: “This game won’t affect our mentality on Tuesday.
“Everyone is hurting after losing but we have to analyse what we did wrong so we don’t repeat the mistakes.”
Though Barcelona are six points clear of nearest pursuers Atletico at the top of la Liga, the attacking trident of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez lacked sharpness against Real.
It may have been a consequence of long journeys back from South America after representing their countries in World Cup qualifiers last week but Iniesta did not use that as an excuse.
Barca defender Gerard Pique, hoping to be part of the first team to achieve a domestic league and Cup and European Cup treble in consecutive years, added: “We have to move on, it’s a defeat but we are still alive in all competitions.
“Now we have to make sure we don’t fall into a slump, because we’re in a unique position.”
Atletico, who gave themselves an ideal send-off for the trip to Barca by thrashing Real Betis 5-1, are in confident mood even if recent history points to a Barca win.
The Catalans’ coach Luis Enrique has a perfect record against his Atletico counterpart Diego Simeone, having won all six of his games against the side from the capital.
Yet Barcelona know exactly what a formidable opponent the Argentine Simeone remains as he masterminded their exit two years ago, winning the quarter-final tie 2-1 on aggregate after securing a 1-1 draw in the second leg at the Nou Camp.
Atletico’s Spanish international Juanfran said this time, with his side enjoying the advantage of playing at home in the second leg, the primary aim was to stay in the tie.
“We’re going there feeling very strong and our aim is to play well over there,” the defender told Canal Plus.
“It’s all about coming back from the Nou Camp with the game still alive so we can try and win the tie at our place.”
Simeone, naturally still hoping to leave the Nou Camp with a crucial away goal, told a news conference he would reward Fernando Torres for his excellent run of five goals in seven league matches by starting the 32-year-old today.
Torres has a fine record against Barcelona, having scored 10 goals against them in 14 games for Atletico and Chelsea.
His most celebrated strike was the decisive equaliser for eventual champions Chelsea at the Nou Camp in a Champions League semi-final, second leg in 2012 which knocked out the Catalans.