Diego Costa back in Atlético squad as they chase history against Barcelona
Atletico Madrid received a boost ahead of tonight’s Champions League quarter-final second leg tie against Barcelona on their own Vicente Calderon pitch with the news that the hitherto injured Diego Costa is back in the squad. Photograph: Vincent West/Reuters
Atletico Madrid’s captain, Gabi, looked out across the room and smiled. “This is the best moment of our lives,” he said. Fifty metres or so away, bathed in bright sunlight, lay the Vicente Calderon pitch where tonight Atletico face Barcelona in their quarter-final second leg with the tie finely poised after the 1-1 draw at Camp Nou.
They are 90 minutes away from a first European Cup semi-final in 40 years. “Ninety or perhaps 120,” said their coach, Diego Simeone.
Atletico received a boost when Diego Costa, the club’s top scorer, was included in the squad, Simeone having admitted he would only risk the player if he was “close to 90 per cent ” fit. But the news of Costa was offset by confirmation that Arda Turan, their most creative player, will miss the game.
If Costa does not start, Adrian will play up front, probably with David Villa. Adrian has scored only twice this season and has rarely been included, but Simeone said he had “complete confidence” in the striker.
Nothing could diminish the enthusiasm and energy from coach and captain. The most basic of questions to Gabi received a grinning reply. “How are you?”
“Excited,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to this. We’re enthusiastic and full of hope.”
On the walls inside were photographs of the club’s achievements.
This may yet be considered the greatest campaign of all. An unbeaten Champions League run has accompanied a league title challenge in which they sit top of the table with six games left. On the walls outside, the Frente supporters’ group had taped up notices imploring fans to arrive early and to play their part: “If the team pressure Barcelona, so should we.”
Physically, Atletico looked a spent team in beating Villarreal 1-0 at home on Saturday – they have six of the 10 most-used players in the Spanish league – but emotionally they remain strong. “None of the players are tired,” said the captain. “We’ve brought hope to the fans, and that’s the most important thing.” Now, the call was for the fans to reciprocate.
The away goal may be a huge advantage. Atletico and Barcelona have drawn their four games and the Spanish champions have scored only twice. –