Fabregas confident of Barca recovery
Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas believes the Spanish champions must "be brave" if they are to progress to the semifinals of the Champions League at the expense of domestic rivals Atletico Madrid.
Atletico go into Wednesday's second leg of the last-16 tie knowing a goalless draw will see them through to a first European Cup semifinal since 1974, after last week’s first leg at the Camp Nou finished 1-1.
Los Rojiblancos also currently lead Barca by one point at the top of La Liga with six games of the campaign left to play as they bid for a first league title since 1996.
Fabregas told the official UEFA prematch news conference that he knows it will be difficult to break down Atletico’s well-organised defence in the game.
"Atletico are one of the strongest teams when they are trying to hold on to a 0-0," Fabregas said. "They close their lines, and they know what they’re doing. So they have a slight advantage, but we are capable of turning this around. We can score here. We have to be brave, as we always are, and stick to our style. We are expecting it to be a difficult game, but we have the technical ability and talent to overcome it. If we bring our talent there are players capable of doing it."
Coach Gerardo Martino has reportedly trialled Fabregas as a "false nine" at training ahead of the game, with Lionel Messi and Neymar to his right and left. The Spain international said he was comfortable playing in this roving centre-forward position.
"I have been playing in this position for three years, I feel comfortable there, but I do not know if I will play," Fabregas said. "Nothing has been confirmed. I believe in this squad, there are 13 or 14 players who could easily start the game. It is a question of what is best for the team."
Barca seemed to play better in last week’s first leg at the Camp Nou after Fabregas had been replaced, leading to further criticism from some pundits and fans who feel his performances have dipped since the turn of the year. The former Arsenal man said he continued to feel he had an important role to play in the team.
"I would not say I feel like a regular, but important yes," he said. "I have played a lot of minutes and a lot of games, but I want to make another step forward. Football is always changing and someone who is not an important player can become one in any moment. I always try my best in important games."
Reports that Barcelona made an official complaint to UEFA to over the length of the grass at Atletico's Estadio Vicente Calderon have been denied.
Radio station Cadena Cope reported that Barca were unhappy with the state of the surface during their training session on Tuesday, and wanted the ruling body to order the grass to be cut on Wednesday before the game kicks off.
But a source at Barca told ESPN FC that, while it was pointed out to Europe's governing body that the length of the grass was above regulation length, no official complaint was made.
According to UEFA rules the maximum height of the grass is 30 millimetres, with the Camp Nou usually cut to a height of 23 millimetres. Barca previously complained about the pitch at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu during the 2011 Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid, with more recently Blaugrana playmaker Xavi Hernandez complained about the surface after the 1-0 defeat at Valladolid in early March.