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Barcelona looking to end Atletico pain once and for all

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

The last time Barcelona won a trophy, Atletico Madrid were the opponents. Diego Simeone's side had lost the battle, but they would win the war.

Fellow Argentines Gerardo 'Tata' Martino and Simeone disputed the first silverware of last season as the two teams met in the Spanish Supercopa, which Barca won on away goals following a 1-1 draw at the Vicente Calderon and a goalless game at Camp Nou.

Atleti, however, went on to knock Barca out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals and also won La Liga by holding Martino's men to a draw on the final day of the season at Camp Nou.

So far this term, though, Barca have had better luck. In two matches against the Rojiblancos, Luis Enrique's men have produced two of their finest displays of the season, winning the Liga clash 3-1 at Camp Nou earlier in January before edging out Simeone's side by a single goal in last week's Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg at the same stadium.

Now, the Catalans will be big favourites to advance in Wednesday's much-anticipated return match in Madrid, although Luis Enrique will not admit it.

"It would be a grave mistake to think we are favourites," the Asturian coach said. "We believe in ourselves and we believe we will get through, but we are not going there thinking we are the favourites. It will be at intense match, particularly at the beginning."

And Lionel Messi, who failed to score in six games against Atleti last term, says he is pumped up for the Copa clash.

"I'm really excited about playing tomorrow in Madrid," the Argentine attacker wrote on his Facebook page. "We are going to give everything on the pitch to reach the semi-finals."

Messi has struck in both games versus Simeone's side this term, hitting home the rebound last week after his penalty was initially saved by Atleti goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

The Argentine attacker saw a strike wrongly ruled out for offside in last season's title decider and he, along with the rest of the Barca squad, is determined to prove a point by beating Atletico and drawing a line under last season's pain against the Rojiblancos.

A third win in a row and the chance to knock out their foes from 2013-14 remains a major motivation for this team. Negotiating Wednesday's test would also leave Luis Enrique's side with an accessible route to what would be their first title since the 2013 Supercopa and also their first silverware under the 44-year-old coach.

First and foremost, however, it's the chance to confine last season's woes against Atleti to the past - once and for all.

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