Barcelona Face Toughest Task Against Atletico, Real Madrid Will Be Confident

Guillem BalagueFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2014


The quarter-final draw for the Champions League has been made and there are four intriguing ties.

The most interesting one for me is Barcelona against Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona have not beaten Atletico Madrid this season, there have been three draws. In fact, they have only managed to score one goal against them in the process.

It is the hardest draw possible for Barcelona, it is as hard as Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, as Atletico know how to beat Barcelona and that the second leg is in Madrid.

Atletico were the first side to expose that Barcelona were not at the level of previous years.

Also, Atletico play the kind of game that hurts Barcelona. They are physical, defend deep, hit on the counter attack, are strong on set pieces and they are masters of it.

MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 11:  Pedro Rodriguez Ledesma (L) of FC Barcelona competes for the ball with Joao Miranda (R) of Atletico de Madrid during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at Vicente Calderon Stadium on January 11,
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

I don’t want to say Atletico Madrid are favourites, but in my eyes it is going to be difficult for Barcelona to get through to the next round. I won't be surprised if Simeone's team goes through.

Real Madrid versus Borussia Dortmund is a repeat of last season, but this Borussia is not as strong as last season and Real Madrid are a much more balanced side.

The Germans will not only have Lewandowski missing, but at the moment they have Subotic, Bender, KUba, Schmeizer and Gundagan sidelined. 

Real have a team now that get their lines together very clearly, they are good strategically both offensively and defensively and there is a calmness in the side that helps as well.

There is the pressure of trying to win their 10th European Cup, La Decima as it is called, and they feel they cannot fear anybody in this competition at the moment.

Real will see themselves as favourites, even though they have to go to Germany for the second leg. The way they despatched Schalke helps them to feel confident to travel to a country that historically was difficult for them.

Paris Saint-Germain against Chelsea is an interesting one, as we do not really know the level of PSG. They are a side with good players, and a great player in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but they have to challenge themselves with the big sides.

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 02:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of PSG celebrates scoring his teams first goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final match between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona FCB at Parc des Princes on April 2, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

It is similar to last season in a way for PSG when they made life difficult for Barcelona. Can they repeat that display of confidence and pace of the first leg? Their mental strength was shattered when a Messi with only one fit leg forced them to step back and scared them. Chelsea are much stronger and competitive, even though perhaps they have less individual quality.

Everybody keeps saying that Chelsea do not have any strikers, but they are a side that score goals and are top of the Premier League! -the emphasis on the strikers is all about making you feel that the team is weak, underdogs, almost with a small club mentality that allows them to defend deep and counterattack when I am not sure that is the football Abramovich hopes for. In fact, it probably is not as he approached Manuel Pellegrini and Pep Guardiola to take charge of the team based on the work they had done with Villarreal, Real Madrid and Barcelona. In any case, Mourinho's strategy is working -this very rich club, filled with lots of youth and talent, is seeing as an underdog as the Portuguese wants you to see it. He does this better than anybody.

It is an even game and in a way Chelsea can count themselves lucky that they did not get one of the very top sides. With the second leg in London, I can see Chelsea going through.

Manchester United Bayern Munich is the final tie. Bayern this season have gone through stages, particularly against Schalke and Manchester City in Manchester, when they have played memorable football, some of the best seen at the club—they were wonderful against Arsenal as well.

But there have been other times when the football has not been as impressive, possession has been a bit conservative, and that is what Franz Beckenbauer was complaining about earlier this month.

Pep Guardiola has admitted as well that they can improve. But they have not been tested and can raise their level.

Manchester United do not have much of a chance for me. Manchester United is all about next season, they have done well to even get to the quarter-finals. And if the club allows Moyes to keep the work he is doing behind the scenes (approaching agents, players, ready to use the 300 million pounds he has avaible) then you will be able to judge him properly. At the moment he is working with the one he inherited and that, as all of a sudden most people agree, needed recycling