Barcelona's Xavi fears Atletico inside knowledge

AFP, Tuesday 1 Apr 2014

Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez acknowledges supporters after their Spanish first division soccer match against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, April 16, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez is concerned that Atletico Madrid will know exactly how to stop the Catalans when they meet in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.

Both sides have already clashed three times this season, twice in the Spanish Supercup and once in La Liga with all three encounters ending in draws.

Barca took the spoils in the Supercup on away goals, but it is Atletico who lead the way in La Liga, a point ahead of second placed Barca, with just seven games remaining.

And Xavi is well aware of how difficult a tie the four-time European champions face if they are to progress to a seventh consecutive Champions League semi-final.

"I don't like playing against Spanish teams in the Champions League, they know us very well. Atletico are a very uncomfortable opponent that defends and breaks on the counter-attack. The tie will be decided by fine details," he told the Barcelona website.

"Atletico are solid and know how they want to play. There will be few chances at goal and the strategies will be important. It is 50-50."

Barca have though hit top form themselves in recent weeks after a dip during February and March.

Gerardo Martino's men have won five consecutive games in all competitions and brought themselves right back into the La Liga title race by beating Real Madrid 4-3 in El Clasico last weekend.

"We arrive in good form, very hopeful and motivated. After the Clasico, we are in good form physically and mentally," added Xavi.

"Our handicap is that we have the return leg at the Calderon. The key is to not concede at home. We need to try and not concede free-kicks or corners because they are excellent on set-pieces.

"Moreover, Diego Costa is spectacular and can make the most of any move."

Costa will be the danger man for Atletico as he has struck 33 times this season, including seven goals in just five appearances in his first season in the Champions League.

However, it was midfielder Koke who headed home Atletico's winner on Saturday as they came from behind to beat Athletic Bilbao and the Spanish international is determined to enjoy the occasion as Atletico return to the last eight of Europe's premier club competition for the first time in 17 years.

"Above all we are very excited. It is the quarter-finals of the Champions League, which is not something you play in every day," he told the club's website.

"We have a tough opponent, but in the quarter-finals we knew we would draw a big name.

"We will try to fight for the whole tie and we hope to play to great games. We have already played three good games against them this season in the Supercup and the league."

Barcelona will be without goalkeeper Victor Valdes as he is sidelined for the rest of the season with cruciate ligament damage, while Raul Garcia is suspended for Atletico.

However, those are the only two major absences from the squads named by both managers.

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