Everything you need to know, Predicted XI – Atletico Madrid vs Manchester City Preview
Manchester City carry a 1-0 advantage to the Wanda Metropolitano and will be seeking to advance into the semi-finals of the Champions League when they face Atletico Madrid on Wednesday 13th April in the second leg of their quarter-final clash with Diego Simeone's side. The game kicks off at 8 pm (BST), broadcast live on BT Sport.
Finally! Ruben Dias is back in training and has travelled to Madrid for the game after six weeks out with a hamstring injury. Pep Guardiola has confirmed the Portuguese behemoth won't be starting on Wednesday night but could make an appearance off the bench. Cole Palmer is also back in training and is ‘feeling better’ according to Guardiola, but has not travelled to Madrid as he continues his recovery. The only other absentee will be Gabriel Jesus who picked up a booking in the first leg, causing a suspension – the Brazilian has travelled with the squad, nonetheless.
Kyle Walker is back from his three-match suspension and so surely slots straight back in at right-back, joined by Stones, Laporte and Cancelo. In midfield, even before news of Fernandinho's intention to leave City at the end of the season broke, I expected him to be given a start here. His cool head, experience and fresher legs could be important to seeing City over the line. City dominated the ball in the first leg, which is the type of game that would suit the ageing Brazilian maestro. Aside from that, the only other change I'd expect is Phil Foden in for Raheem Sterling. Foden created the goal with practically his first touch last week and it's that magic City will need in abundance here to help them progress to the next round.
Predicted XI: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Cancelo; Gundogan, Fernandinho, Bernardo; Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden
League position: 1st
Top scorer: Mahrez (22)
Previous result: D 2-2 Liverpool (H)
The Blues should come into this tie with confidence, after all, their run to the Final last season has battle-hardened them. It has given every player in the squad the experience of fighting to progress from the quarter-finals, a stage at which Pep's City went awry in three of his first four seasons.
The Atletico first leg was all City and whilst there wasn't a raft of missed chances, the 1-0 scoreline certainly flatters the Spaniards. Simeone's side didn't register a single shot on City's goal, lining up in a very deep almost 5-5-0 formation at times. City flashed chances across goal, others stung Oblak's palms but once Foden got on the pitch, he delivered the perfect assist to a lethal De Bruyne finish. Obviously, a two or three-goal win would've made this second leg far easier to navigate but City will remain confident in getting the job done in Madrid, regardless of the expected hostility.
Whilst there may be regrets from the weekend against Liverpool; Mahrez's chip, Jesus not squaring or playing De Bruyne through, City put in a fine performance in every part of the game and were clearly the better team as well. Liverpool's two goals may give Atleti hope of breaching City's defence, but any gaps they do leave can be easily exploited just as much. After all, Guardiola's game plan with Foden, Sterling and Jesus making runs in behind consistently paid off. It may have been a bigger departure from Guardiola's patient build-up we're so used to, but Liverpool looked genuinely rattled as City went toe to toe with them. Fullbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson must have been dumbfounded as City's attackers came flying past at nearly every opportunity. Whilst Atleti will no doubt line up deeper and defend more stoutly as any team would on home soil, you'd be brave to bet against the Blues going through to their third ever Champions League semi-final on Wednesday night come full time.
City are a team well in form, Kevin De Bruyne is on a run of 6 goals in 6 starts, starting with his brace in the Manchester derby a month ago. No matter who plays, whether it's City top scorer Mahrez or Foden like I've predicted or if Sterling retains his place – even without the striker they clearly want, City are still scoring freely, even when a team like Atleti will make them work for it.
League position: 4th
Top scorer: Suarez (13)
Previous result: L 1-0 Mallorca (A)
As for Atletico Madrid, it does look like an uphill battle for them on Wednesday night. Chasing the scoreboard and with a 5000 seat section of the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium closed due as punishment for ‘discriminatory behaviour’ by their fans in the first leg, it's very much backs against the wall for Simeone's side. This is not the first time UEFA have punished Atletico with a stadium closure either after a racist banner was unfurled during the 2018 Europa League final by Atleti fans as well. Atleti have announced their intention to take their punishment to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but at the time of writing, the partial closure remains in place.
The bad news for Los Colcheneros doesn't stop there either, a 1-0 loss away to relegation candidates Mallorca have them sitting fourth, only a point above Real Betis in 5th. Atletico dominated the ball in a not unlike City way (68%-32%, the game against City was 71%-29%), and they were more expansive in their play too, but Vedat Muriqi's second-half penalty was the difference between the two. With an 8 game unbeaten streak over, their top 4 position at risk, the Spanish champions find themselves in an unenviable position.
However, it is these situations that Diego Simeone relishes. Atletico have been desperate to define themselves as underdogs, and whilst their city neighbours surely help, Atleti's own spending in recent years, their status as one of the biggest teams in La Liga and the world is unthreatened, even if their form doesn't quite show that of a giant. The mind games started almost immediately after the first leg with captain Koke hitting out at Guardiola's comments post-match about Atleti's defensive stance; ‘in prehistory, attacking a 5-5 is very difficult’, to which Koke replied on Instagram ‘In love with your story since prehistory. Proud to be Atleti’. In his own pre-match press conference, Koke talked up Atleti's ‘passion and strength’, something they will need to tap into to get a result in the game.
As for their lineup, Jose Gimenez and Hector Herrera are ‘practically ruled out’ according to the Spanish media having not trained in recent days. Gimenez came off injured in their 4-1 win over Alaves right before the first leg and Herrera hasn't played since before then either. Despite picking up three bookings across their team in the first leg, Atleti have no suspensions either, meaning only the two injured players are absent.
Oblak; Vrsaljko, Savić, Felipe, Reinildo, Lodi; Llorente, Koke, Kondogbia; Griezmann, João Felix
Head to Head
Manchester City and Atletico Madrid have only met once before in a competitive fixture, last week's first leg tie where City ran out 1-0 winners.
Referee: Daniel Siebert
Assistants: Jan Seidel & Rafael Foltyn
Fourth Official: Felix Zwayer
VAR: Marco Fritz
Assistant VAR: Christian Dingert
Written by: @olicoulsxn
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