Monday, Nov 24, 2014

Costa struggles to make all Spanish draw

Reuters | Barcelona | Posted: April 9, 2014 12:06 am | Updated: April 8, 2014 11:09 pm

Atletico Madrid hope to have talismanic striker Diego Costa back fit against Barcelona on Wednesday when the La Liga leaders bid to pull off another surprise by reaching the Champions League semi-finals. Costa has hit 33 goals for Diego Simeone’s side in a remarkable season for Atletico, where they have come out of the shadows of their more affluent neighbours Real Madrid and La Liga champions Barca.

They picked up a 1-1 draw in a typically hard-fought battle at the Camp Nou in the Champions League first leg last week, where Costa limped off with a hamstring strain in the first half.

His replacement Diego hit a stunning shot from distance to give Atletico a valuable away goal before Neymar grabbed a draw.

Costa has been receiving intensive treatment with the aim of being ready for the home leg and is progressing well. However, Atletico’s medical staff are wary of him coming back too soon and aggravating the injury.

Arda Turan is also a doubt with a groin strain and if he does not recover then his place on the right wing would likely go to Diego with Adrian Lopez possibly replacing Costa. Adrian came on as a substitute and looked lively in the 1-0 home win over Villarreal on Saturday that kept them a point clear of Barca at the top of the Spanish championship.

Meanwhile, Barcelona have injury concerns at the back where Gerard Pique is missing with a hip injury so Marc Bartra could again deputise with Carles Puyol out on long term.

Barcelona also have to finish the season with veteran goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto after Victor Valdes was ruled out with a knee ligament injury.

“It was a tough game (at the Calderon) where we put in a great effort and now for the return leg we will be in perfect condition,” Pinto told Barca TV.

“It is likely to be a tight game, the same as the first, and small details will make the difference. We hope that these small details will go for us.”

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