Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid battled, literally,to a 0-0 first-leg draw at the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday. This was not a match for the uncommitted. Every ball and challenge was heavily contested in a game that threatened to boil over at times, but never did.
The visitors had by far the better of the chances, particularly in the first period, and Atletico were grateful to goalkeeper Jan Oblak for keeping them in the tie with a string of fine saves.
Croatian striker Mandzukic returned to training on Sunday after missing league outings against Real Sociedad and Malaga in the past week due to a recurring ankle injury and is expected to take the place of Fernando Torres alongside Antoine Griezmann in attack.
Oblak, meanwhile, was one of the heros of Atletico’s last 16 win on penalties over Bayer Leverkusen as he replaced the injured Miguel Angel Moya and saved from Hakan Calhanoglu as Los Rojiblancos won the shootout 3-2.
Four-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi has admitted that he struggled to overcome injuries in Barcelona’s first trophyless campaign for six years last season.
As well as the disappointment at club level, Messi suffered the devastation of losing the FIFA World Cup™ final with Argentina and saw Cristiano Ronaldo oust him to win the FIFA Ballon d’Or for a second consecutive year.
“Last season, I had an inconsistent season. I was out for a long time with injuries and I missed a lot of games,” Messi told Barcelona’s website.
Paco Alcacer headed home the opener after 16 minutes and Sofiane Feghouli doubled the hosts’ advantage before the break. And substitute Alvaro Negredo added the third in stoppage time with a fine volleyed finish from outside the area.
Victory consolidates Valencia position in fourth, three points clear of Sevilla, ahead of their trip to Barcelona on Saturday. Los Che had stumbled in recent weeks with draws against Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao.
Villarreal’s faltering bid for a top-four finish in the Spanish La Liga suffered another setback on Sunday as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Getafe.
Marcelino’s side looked to be heading for their first competitive win in six matches when Ikechukwu Uche’s penalty put them ahead early in the second half, but his effort was soon cancelled out by Diego Castro, and Getafe held on for a point despite having just two shots on target all game. The result leaves Villarreal in sixth place but 11 points behind fourth-placed Valencia – who face Levante on Monday.
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has said his side will be out to avenge the humiliation of their 4-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid in February when the sides meet in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday.
Los Blancos beat Atletico 4-1 after extra time to win their tenth European Cup in last season’s final, but the La Liga champions have turned the tide in the Spanish capital this season with four wins and two draws in six previous meetings this campaign. The most recent of those matches was the most embarrassing for Real as Atletico outplayed Ancelotti’s men from first minute to last to seal their biggest win in a Madrid derby for 28 years.
The Catalans looked well set for a tenth consecutive win in all competitions thanks to stunning strikes from Lionel Messi and Neymar inside the opening half hour. However, a rare mistake from Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo gave Sevilla a foothold in the game before half-time.
And the UEFA Europa League holders took full advantage when Gerard Pique gifted Jose Antonio Reyes possession eight minutes from time as Kevin Gameiro finished off a flowing move to secure a point.
Lionel Messi opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a curled effort and Barcelona looked well on the way to a vital win when Neymar doubled the lead just past the half hour mark with an exquisite free-kick. But Ever Banega pulled a goal back before half-time to lift the home fans and substitute Kevin Gameiro levelled from close range in the 84th minute.
The Spanish league cancelled a yellow card awarded against Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo for diving, ending a threatened one match suspension, his club has said.
The Portuguese attacker got the card for diving in the penalty area against Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday. TV images later showed that he had been tripped by a defender. Real confirmed in a statement that the Spanish federation’s competitions committee had “cancelled the referee’s yellow card”.
Ronaldo avoids a one match suspension for his fifth yellow card meaning he will be available to play in a key match on Saturday against Eibar.