Two superb goals at Camp Nou mean Barcelona and Atlético Madrid cannot be separated for the fourth time this season
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Well, the Barcelona pressure was suffocating at the end there but Atleti stood firm. I think this is what you'd call "nicely poised for the second leg.
Peep! Peep! PEEEEEEEEP! For the fourth time this season, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid can't be separated.
90+2 min: … and another clearance. The defending has been desperate at times, but you have to admire the visitors' resilience.
90+1 min: Sosa loses the ball, then a desperate challenge sends Neymar to the turf once more. Another booking, another dangerous free-kick …
90 min: Messi finds Sanchez with a beauty of a through-ball but the Chilean inexplicably delays his shot and the yellow shirts get back to smother the chance. Three minutes added on. Three minutes for Atletico Madrid to survive. And then another 90.
89 min: Neymar's turn to hit the deck in spectacular fashion. Barcelona have a free-kick like a penalty corner in hockey … but there's a foul in the box and Atleti can clear.
87 min: Alexis flops over. Nothing doing. But again Barça get the ball back in the blink of an eye.
85 min: Superb save from Courtois! Barcelona win their umpteenth free-kick within 30 yards of goal. Messi clips this one, looking to curl it inside the near post, but the keeper is across well to claw the ball away.
84 min: Godin gets a toe to the ball as Sanchez looks to turn in the box. In the Atléti camp on the edge of the box someone has found a guitar and is threatening to play Kumbaya.
83 min: Iniesta shows his defensive worth with a timely tackle as Atletico break through Sosa and Diego.
82 min: … and claimed by Courtois. Atletico get room for a deep breath.
81 min: … flicked away for a corner …
80 min: Neymar gets tripped twice as he looks to traverse the pitch. He gets a free-kick from the second. More danger …
78 min: Neymar, who hasn't carried the ball a great deal this evening, skitters down the left to spark another Barça attack. An Atleti head rises to nod away Sanchez's cross, but the ball isn't clear for long. This is claustrophobic as a really good horror film. And Atleti are getting all the scares at the moment. (See what I did there?)
76 min: Arda Turan departs (eventually), Cristian Rodriguez enters the fray.
75 min: More pinball football on the edge of the Atlético box, but this there's no way through.
73 min: Barcelona have gone up another gear. Iniesta, at the centre of everything, forces Courtois into a fingertip save with a rasping drive.
Iniesta produces one of those passes – you know the ones, unerring, inch-perfect, subtle but with the destructive power of a well-aimed half-brick – to put Neymar through on goal. With four, maybe five or six, defenders taken out of the game by Iniesta's genius, the Brazilian sweeps the home side level.
71 min: Villa off, Sosa on.
70 min: Atlético Madrid haven't just set up camp on the edge of their own area now. They've pitched tents, cracked open the cool box, made themselves a fire and started cooking sausages.
69 min: … flicked on at the near post and out for a Barcelona corner.
68 min: Neymar wins his team a free-kick on the left edge of the box. Gabi looks disgusted, but it did look a foul. Dangerous this …
67 min: The curate's egg that is Alexis Sanchez replaces Cesc Fabregas.
65 min: Replays show that was a pretty risible dive from Iniesta a few minutes ago. Could well have been a second yellow. But wasn't.
64 min: Alves spanks in a shot across goal as Barça pour forward again. Messi attempts to chest the ball goalwards but even he can't manage that.
63 min: Iniesta tumbles in the box. Brych waves away the appeals.Then seconds later the ball breaks out to Busquets who catches a volley as sweet and clean as a Domestos-coated M&M. Courtois does well to sprawl to his left to save.
62 min: We've just seen a brilliant replay of Diego's strike from behind the Barcelona goal. That took some technique.
60 min: Atlético get what looks a slightly soft free-kick as Alves tugs Filipe Luis back.
58 min: What a goal that was. The purest of pure strikes. Barcelona are shellshocked.
57 min: Alba is booked for a frustrated pull on Juanfran.
Camp Nou silenced! What a strike! After that Iniesta booking, a quick free-kick is zipped in to Diego, who turns and sends a swerving exocet of a right-foot shot into the near top corner of Pinto's net from the right corner of the box. Quite sensational.
55 min: Brych might need a new pencil – Iniesta becomes the fifth name in the book after ending a series of thumping tackles with a foul.
53 min: Iniesta scoops forward with that effortless glide of his, but Neymar's layoff at the back post, once the ball reaches him, is terribly sloppy and an Atlético boot is able to intercept.
51 min: The fourth Atlético player goes into Brych's Big Book Of Very Bad Men – this time it's Juanfran for tugging on Iniesta's arm as if attempting to drag a stubborn mule down the beach.
50 min: The set-piece is scrambled clear with little bother.
49 min: Diego pinches the ball from Neymar on halfway, but again Atleti's attempt to break is a little harum scarum. Diego rescues the situation by winning a soft free-kick from Alba.
48 min: Fabregas slips, but Atleti again can't hold on to the ball. Barça win it back, but Neymar thwacks the ball over the bar. The second-half pattern seems to have been set.
46 min: Fabregas lofts the ball into the box … nodded clear. Atlético have all 10 outfield players back within 10 yards of their own box.
Peep! Off we go again.
Peep! A slow-burner of a first-half comes to an end.
45+2 min: Atletico catch Barcelona (and the TV director) napping with a quick free-kick and Villa forces Pinto in to a decent low save.
45+1 min: Again the ball seems to take on a mind of its own on the edge of the Barça box. Villa eventually manages to bring the thing under control, but then spanks his shot against the buttocks of Turan.
45 min: Neymar skips past a challenge and fizzes a rising shot well over the bar.
44 min: Turan picks up a booking for ploughing into Messi like a runaway tractor.
43 min: Atléti are briefly, incongruously, all over Barcelona, but the ball just won't drop on the edge of the box.
41 min: Courtois is forced off his feet for just about the first time. With Atléti camped in their box, Alves finds a little space down the right and chips a cross in. Messi, from the penalty spot, guides his header goalwards but the Belgium international drops on it comfortably.
40 min: I can't remember where we are with this: is 0-0 a good result for the away side in Europe these days? What did the last memo say?
38 min: … that wasn't very Barça like. The free-kick is lofted awkwardly across the edge of the area to Alba, who can only clumsily shin the ball yards wide. One from the training ground. And should've stayed there.
37 min: Another free-kick, again in dangerous territory. Gabi goes into the book after hacking down Neymar at the corner of the box.
36 min: … Xavi clips it in, Bartra glances on, the ball drops a couple of yards wide.
35 min: Arda Turan chops down Iniesta to give Barcelona a free-kick 40-odd yards from goal …
34 min: Atletico need to keep hold of the ball much better. They are set up to play on the break, of course, but they've not kept the ball long enough to set one up yet.
32 min: "There is only one Messi," writes Andy O'Shaughnessy of the 26th-minute magic. "Not possible to duplicate that." I think even attempting to duplicate that would involve the dislocation of both knees and a hip replacement.
31 min: Diego looks to make an immediate impact with a slide-rule pass in to Koke. Bartra shows fleet of foot to make the interception.
29 min: Diego replaces the stricken Diego Costa.
28 min: And things just got a lot worse for Diego Simeone's side. Diego Costa twangs something as he attempts to hold off Busquets. It looks like the injury that threatened to keep him out completely has ended his night before the half hour mark.
27 min: Atletico are getting a little ragged. And they're not getting any respite.
26 min: Brilliance all round here. Messi, with his back to goal, somehow holds off Miranda's robust challenge then twists mindbendingly away from his marker before zipping the sweetest of passes in to Iniesta. The response: a quite superb block tackle from Godin as the midfielder's shot from close range headed goalwards.
25 min: Messi, surrounded by defenders like a movie hero fighting off zombies, finds Alves on the overlap. Alves inexplicably hammers his cross from the right edge of the area over the heads of his team-mates.
23 min: A first shot on goal for Barcelona. Xavi dinks in a cross, Neymar slightly miscues his header and it plops into Courtois's hands.
22 min: Atleti break and the ball drops to Diego Costa, who throws himself to the turf on halfway under Bartra's challenge. Brych, who has refereed unfussily so far, waves his free-kick claims away.
21 min: Miranda clears straight to Alba. Turan nabs the ball from the left-back. Alba nabs it right back. Barcelona are growing into this now.
19 min: Koke goes into Brych's book for a blatant trip on Neymar.
17 min: Another Pinto error helped in the creation of that chance for the visitors. His start has been wobbly to say the least. If Google Translate is accurate, the visiting fans should be chanting: "Arquero chunga! Arquero chunga!" whenever he goes near the ball for the rest of the evening.
16 min: Barcelona haven't been allowed to settle into their familiar pass-pass-pass routine yet. A loose touch from Diego Costa on the edge of the box sees a half-chance go begging.
15 min: … swung in and nodded clear by Sergio Busquets.
14 min: Bartra is 23 now, but barely has more Barcelona appearances than he does years on the clock. And he's got a corner to defend here …
12 min: So Marc Bartra replaces Gerard Piqué, who'll need a couple of trips to the osteopath by the look of it, at the back for Barcelona.
11 min: I've done Pique a disservice there. He's tried to run that bump off, but he's crumpled to the turf again and looks to be done for the evening.
10 min: A Fabregas shot takes a deflection off Gabi and wins Barça the first corner of the game. It comes to nought.
9 min: Pique towers above Costa to win a header on halfway, but comes thumping back to the turf with a bang, landing right on his coccyx. He's absolutely fine. I mention it largely because "coccyx" is such a pleasant word.
8 min: Iniesta sand-wedges a atypically hopeful pass forward. Tiago nods clear.
7 min: … Messi, taking the set-piece from about five yards further out than he should be doing, tamely clips it into the wall.
6 min: Messi bumblebees his way through the centre of the Atleti defence and gets tripped right on the edge of the box. Dangerous free-kick …
5 min: What a chance! Oh my, what a chance! Pinto fluffs a clearance straight to Turan, who rolls the ball across the box for Villa. The striker has to stretch just a touch to wrap his foot around the ball, but he should've done much better than to steer the thing wide.
4 min: Barcelona send the big men up from the back and whack the free-kick into the mixer. That may be a lie.
3 min: Alves, Neymar, Alves … whump! Koke tonks into the full-back to give away the game's first free-kick on halfway.
2 min: David Villa has an early pop at goal from the edge of the box, curling his effort just wide. The attack came from Atletico's midfielders successfully ferreting for the ball among their Barcelona counterparts.
1 min: Arda Turan holds the ball down the Atletico right as the visitors start off on the front foot.
Peep! Off we go then. Barcelona will look to keep the ball. Atléti will aim to pinch their pockets and break like lightning.
… and we're about to get under way.
The players are in the tunnel. Xavi chats to a couple of young mascots who are towering over him. One poor lad gets to be the referee's mascot. Short straw drawn there. "You were a mascot at Camp Nou? Who did you walk out with? Messi? Neymar? Diego Costa? Koke?" "Er, no. Felix Brych."
This will do for me:
Romario's chip for the opener is worth the admission price on that one. And Stoichkov's free-kick isn't bad either.
Atletico Madrid captain Gabi has run 93,086m in the Champions League so far this season. Only three players (Nuri Sahin and Kevin Grosskreutz of Dortmund and Schalke's Roman Neustadter) have covered greater distances.
Completely irrelevantly, Chelsea's Tomas Kalas has covered the least ground in this year's tournament – 44m.
Barcelona: Pinto; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Xavi; Cesc, Iniesta, Neymar; Messi. Subs: Oier, Adriano, Song, Bartra, Sergi Roberto, Alexis, Pedro.
Atlético Madrid: Courtois; Juanfran, Godin Miranda, Filipe Luis; Tiago, Gabi; Arda Turan, Villa, Koke; Diego Costa. Subs: Aranzubia, Alderweireld, Insua, Mario Suarez, Cristian Rodriguez, Sosa, Diego.
So no doubt about the big news: Diego Costa is fit and starts for the visitors. Or, at least, he starts.
"Papa, why do we support Atléti?"
Cue existential angst …
More recently, after a couple of Europa League finals …
Somehow football adverts from the Premier League don't quite have the same class …
Evening all, and what a fine evening of football it should be. The European Cup quarter-finals. first v second in La Liga … but one of the teams involved isn't Real Madrid. Atléti are the story of the season in Europe for my money, how Barcelona evolve might just be the story of next season and beyond. But this isn't a battle between the past and the future – both these teams are very much in the now.
By way of a preamble I can do no better than to direct you to Sid Lowe's back catalogue:
• On what makes Atlético Madrid Atlético Madrid (from 2010)
• On Diego Simeone's appointment (in 2012)
• La Liga going down to the wire (from Monday)
• And will Diego Costa be fit? (also from yesterday)
Atlético aren't exactly a minnow – nine La Liga titles, 10 Copa del Rey wins, three European titles and a European Cup runners up spot isn't the honours list of a pub team – but the manner in which they have broken the duopoly in Spain has been a breath of fresh air in a league that was threatened to stagnate. Their Champions League campaign has been a bonus, a victorious campaign that you keep expecting to turn pyrrhic. It hasn't thus far.
Tonight is likely to be an affair as cagey as a Nicolas Cage trip to the zoo. The three meetings between the side thus far this season have ended 0-0, 0-0 and 1-1. The latter score might well suit the visitors from Madrid. Barcelona, you sense, would love to make a statement. The 4-1 win over Manchester City in the last round was comfortable, yet still somehow lacking. Tata Martino's Barça are yet to capture the imagination in the way Pep Guardiola's side did (and perhaps that is an impossible ask), but putting Atléti in their perceived place would be a start.