Atletico's Costa in fitness battle to face Barca

Mon Apr 7, 2014 10:17pm EDT
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By Tim Hanlon

BARCELONA (Reuters) - 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 Spanish surprise by reaching the Champions League semi-finals.

Spain's 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 neighbors 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, with further crucial games ahead, 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 during an otherwise tired Atletico display in a 1-0 home win over Villarreal on Saturday that kept them a point clear of Barca at the top of the Spanish championship.

"I am prepared, we are all ready for when we have to play. Any opportunity in this team is important and you have to be ready to take it," Adrian told reporters.   Continued...

Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa (R) and Barcelona's Marc Bartra fight for the ball during their Champions League quarter-final first leg soccer match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona April 1, 2014. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino