Home Sports Atletico must escape defeat, while Barca battles in Champions League

Atletico must escape defeat, while Barca battles in Champions League

Atletico Madrid,Barca

Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona play their final UEFA Champions League group games on Wednesday and while Barcelona has little at stake in its match away to Royal Antwerp, Atletico battles it out for the leadership of its group with Lazio.

Barcelona is virtually assured of finishing top of Group H, and it would need an unlikely set of circumstances, with Shakhtar Donetsk winning in Porto and Barca losing to Antwerp, with a seven-goal swing in Shakhtar’s favor, for that not to happen.

Xavi Hernandez has included eight players from the B-team in his squad. The coach initially left out several key players, such as Ronald Araujo, Ilkay Gundogan, Frenkie de Jong and Robert Lewandowski, but all except De Jong (who has a fever) were later included.

Barca is still without the injured duo of Inigo Martinez and Marc-Andre ter Stegen, with Inaki Pena continuing in goal and Alejandro Balde likely to return at left back after Joao Cancelo has been favored in recent games.

The pressure is mounting on Xavi after Barca’s 4-2 home defeat to Girona on Sunday, and although his side is already into the last-16, he will be anxious to avoid a defeat to a rival that has lost all five matches in Europe this season.

Atletico entertains Lazio with a one-point lead at the top of Group E, which means a draw in the Metropolitano Stadium will see them through as group winners and ensure a home game in the second leg of the last-16.

Diego Simeone’s side has won their last 19 games in the Metropolitano, but was guilty of allowing La Liga’s bottom side Almeria back into its match on the weekend, and the coach will want to see greater concentration against the Italians.

Atletico has little rest time after Wednesday’s game, with a difficult away trip to play Athletic Bilbao in the league on Saturday afternoon and Simeone has the difficult task of ensuring players such as Alvaro Morata, Rodrigo de Paul and especially Antoine Griezmann are as fresh as possible for the weekend.

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