MADRID - Atletico Madrid could be forgiven for fearing the visit of the Primera Liga's runaway leader Barcelona for its King's Cup last 16 first leg tonight.
Pep Guardiola's side, who has won the Cup a record 24 times, hammered Atletico 6-1 at the Nou Camp back in October and has trampled over all its closest challengers to open up an 11-point lead at the top of the league standings.
Atletico's 15-match unbeaten run in all competitions ended in a 3-1 defeat away to Valencia on Saturday.
"We are going to prepare well for the game to prove that Barca is not a team of extra-terrestrials," Atletico's French striker Florent Sinama Pongolle said. "We'll see if, as they say in boxing, we can give them a knockout blow in the first match."
Atletico welcomes captain Maxi Rodriguez and chief playmaker Maniche back after missing the Valencia game but coach Javier Aguirre said striker Sergio Aguero will start on the bench.
Barca travels without the injured Carles Puyol, Rafael Marquez and Aleksandr Hleb, and has rested Victor Valdes, Xavi and Samuel Eto'o. Forward Lionel Messi returns after being rested for Saturday's 3-1 win over Real Mallorca.
Tomorrow, there are five more first legs including holders Valencia's trip to face Racing Santander and the 2007 winner Sevilla's match at home to Deportivo Coruna.