Atletico Madrid Need David Villa to Step Up in Champions League Without Costa

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2014

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Atletico Madrid have put themselves in a good position for the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg, having earned a 1-1 draw against Barcelona on Tuesday night.

The big worry for Diego Simeone and his side, though, will be the injury sustained by star centre-forward Diego Costa in the first half.

Manu Fernandez

As tweeted by AS, the Spanish international pulled up with a hamstring injury early on in the match, leaving David Villa to run the attacking line for La Liga's current leaders. The all-time record scorer for the Spanish national team failed to shine, however, and his recent form is a concern for his side as it heads into a vital stage of the campaign without its own top scorer.

Villa started this season in good form, playing both from the left and centrally in attack at times, and by and large maintaining a rate of a goal every other match. Diego Costa was the prime source of goals, of course, but Villa was ably backing him up by averaging around one chance created every match and one goal scored every two.

This continued up to the start of February—he had 11 goals in 22 games by that time and had created 21 chances.

In his seven appearances since the 4-0 rout of Real Sociedad, however, Villa has scored in just one fixture—a brace against Celta Vigo. Three substitute appearances in that time, not a single full 90-minute game and not being involved at all against Almeria and Real Madrid have seen his form and reliability dip.

Andres Kudacki

Atletico have used a more obviously 4-2-3-1 system of late, with Raul Garcia central behind Diego Costa, and Villa's influence has thus waned.

Costa's injury will almost certainly keep him out of the Villarreal fixture at the weekend, and even the second leg against Barcelona, only eight days away, must be a stretch.

Villa had one decent chance fall his way in the first leg; a poor clearance from Jose Manuel Pinto led to the striker having a first-time shot on the turn. He missed his opportunity, though, and Villa has yet to score in the Champions League this season from his four appearances.

He also hasn't created a single scoring chance for his team-mates in the tournament, something Costa manages with regularity even alongside his scoring habits.

Other than that early opportunity, Villa was rarely a threat against Barca's back line, with substitute Marc Bartra in particularly dominant form.

Emilio Morenatti

Atletico defended well for most of the match against Barcelona, but it was certainly all hands on deck for a period, as Andres Iniesta in particular took control. Atleti have their away goal, but it's difficult to imagine Barcelona not finding one of their own in the second leg.

Simeone and co will be relying on Villa to come up with the goods against his old side, not to mention in the league against Villarreal at the weekend, to keep them in the hunt for the two biggest prizes on offer.

That's going to take a big turnaround in form for Villa, who must also be considering that his indifferent end-of-season form will otherwise jeopardise a place in the Spanish national team squad for the World Cup.