The good game, defensive strength, Messi's goal, recovering Neymar and qualifying for semifinals
In the most delicate moment of the season, the club faces the most important game. A visit to the Vicente Calderon will be a tough test for evaluating the team of Luis Enrique, which a few weeks ago was about to be perfect, but which now has some aspects in which they must improve. These are the duties of Barça against Simeone's Atlético.
1 - Recovering the good game
FC Barcelona need to recover good feelings on a soccer field. Since a month ago, when Barca won 6-0 at Getafe, the team have had problems to dominate games and the opponents became dangerous. Arsenal at the Camp Nou was the first alarm, and then defeats vs Villarreal, Real Madrid and Real Sociedad reaffirmed this trend. The second part against Atlético was the only time when the club ruled the game based on possession, opening the wings, moving the ball fast and being accurate when shooting. To see the winning version of Barça, we must also see the ball rolling.
2 - Defensive strength
Barça has left only a clean sheet in three of the last 14 games. Very low numbers for a team that last season was characterized by a good defensive work. Bravo was the goalkeeper with less goals conceded in La Liga and Ter Stegen received very few goals in Copa del Rey and the Champions League. The team must recover pressure after a loss and can not ignore the defensive balance when things go wrong, as for example El Clásico. Simeone's Atlético will be very aggressive and Barça will need to equalize their intensity. No collective sacrifice, no titles.
3 - Messi's 500th goal
Since May 2011, Messi had not stayed four consecutive games without scoring. The streak was broken on a big stage: the Champions League final against Manchester United. Tomorrow at Calderon, the Argentine will be really observed, so he must regain good feelings with the goal. In recent games, he has participated more in the development of the game more than in shooting, so he should walk on the box again to threaten the defense of Atlético, which will live thinking about the comeback but also trying not to concede a goal. The 500th goal in Messi's career can have much value.
4 - Recovering Neymar
The Brazilian has only scored six goals in the last 15 games and lost that freshness of the beginning of the season, where he scored 16 goals in the first 17 games. From the left, he's having trouble to participate in the game and needs to be dangerous in important games again. If Atlético leave spaces while trying to score against Barça, Neymar's speed on the counter can be a lethal weapon, as he showed against Simeone's team last season in Copa del Rey. Calderón is a good stadium for him, as he has scored 4 goals in 6 matches there.
5- Qualifying for the semifinals
The most important objective. It would be the 8th Champions League semifinals in the last 11 seasons and it would mean encouragement to regain self-esteem after the latest defeats. Luis Enrique's team has usually shown competitive personality and a good example is that they have won 22 out of the 25 two-legged UCL and Copa del Rey matches. Since the arrival of the Asturian coach, the club has not fallen in any round and the match at Calderon will be a great test to show that they want to be champions again. Rigor must come back, and FC Barcelona should fulfill their duties. The best lesson to opt for everything again.