PUNDIT’S PREVIEW: ATLETICO MADRID V LEICESTER CITY

Event: UEFA Champions League – Quarter final, 1st Leg

Date: Wednesday, 12th April 2017

KICK OFF: 7:45pm (Nigerian time)

Venue: Estadio Vicente Calderon, Madrid, Spain

 

 

English Premier League champions Leicester City head to the Spanish capital for the first leg of their quarter-final tie aiming to keep alive their latest fairy-tale adventure. The Foxes take on Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderón Stadium tonight, having encountered the Spanish giants over two legs twice before in their history. The two clubs first met in European Cup Winners’ Cup during the 1961/62 campaign before their paths crossed again in the UEFA Cup in 1997. However, on both occasions, defeat was the outcome for the English side and interim boss Craig Shakespeare will know the odds are once again stacked against his team in this latest encounter.

 

However, Leicester City have defied the odds time and time again and it would take a brave, or foolish man to write off their chances of making yet more history over the next week.

 

Leicester fans will be able to enjoy the experience a lot more knowing their Premier League relegation worries have eased since the last round. Back then it looked as though they would have a battle for survival on their hands during the final few months of the season.

 

Since sacking Claudio Ranieri, in between the first and second legs of their tie with Sevilla, however, the Foxes have climbed up the Premier League table and are now in 11th – eight points above the drop zone with a game in hand on 18th-placed Swansea City.

 

That margin was deemed sufficient for Shakespeare to feel confident enough to make five changes for Sunday’s defeat at Everton and his rested stars will benefit from the break as the task facing the club remains immense.

 

Leicester City manager Craig Shakespeare rested a number of key players in their 4-2 away defeat to Everton on Sunday.

 

Shinji Okazaki, Riyad Mahrez, Danny Simpson, Christian Fuchs and Wilfred Ndidi were all named on the substitutes bench in anticipation of Leicester’s away leg in Madrid.

 

Mahrez, Simpson and Fuchs are all expected to return to the side, while Islam Slimani could retain his place after a goalscoring performance at Goodison Park.

 

For Atletico Madrid, striker Kevin Gameiro happens to be the only player doubtful while The Foxes will be without their captain, Wes Morgan due to back injury. Leicester City’s historic Champions League campaign continues when they face a familiar foe in the first leg of their quarter-final.

 

Atletico, who lost last season’s final on penalties to city rivals Real in Milan, beat Bayern Munich to top Group D and breezed past Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the round of 16 4-2 on aggregate.

 

Diego Simeone’s side are bursting with talent but, just as importantly, are one of the best drilled units in Europe – a statement supported by the fact they continuously push Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga despite having a vastly inferior budget.

 

In Antoine Griezmann they boast one of the best forwards on the planet, while Fernando Torres has enjoyed a renaissance since his returning to Spain after a disappointing time at Chelsea.

 

However, it is at the other end of the pitch where their real strength lies. Atletico boast the best defence in La Liga and have conceded just 24 goals in 31 league games this season.

 

Content to play deep, they will not present Leicester with the counter attacking opportunities the likes of Jamie Vardy feast upon and were pivotal to the title charge last season.

 

 

 

 

KEY STATISTICS TO BEAR IN MIND AS THE COUNTDOWN TICKS AWAY

-Atlético Madrid have kept a clean sheet in 15 of their last 17 Champions League games at the Calderón.

 

-Leicester are the lowest scoring side in the Champions League among the eight teams left in this season’s competition (10 goals in 8 games). 50% of their goals have come from set-piece.

 

-Atlético Madrid and Leicester City are meeting for the third time in a European home/away tie after facing each other in the first round of the 1961/62 Cup Winners Cup and 1997/98 UEFA Cup. The Spanish side qualified on both previous occasions.

 

-In fact, 25% of Leicester City’s games in European competition have taken place against Atlético Madrid (4 out of 16).

 

-Atlético Madrid have won 16 of their 21 Champions League home games under Diego Simeone (D4 L1), their only defeat coming against Benfica in September 2015 (1-2). They are unbeaten in the knockout stages (W5 D4).

 

-Atlético Madrid have reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the fourth consecutive season. They had only reached that stage once previously (1996/97).

 

-Atlético Madrid have won six of their eight Champions League games this season (D1 L1). No team has collected more victories.

 

-Leicester’s possession average of 38% is the lowest of any team to have reached this season’s quarter-finals.

 

-In fact, 25% of Leicester City’s games in European competition have taken place against Atlético Madrid (4 out of 16).

 

-Leicester City are the first team since Malaga in 2012/13 to reach the quarter-finals on their Champions League debut. They’re also the eighth English team to make it to the Last 8 of the competition, more than any other country.

 

-Leicester City have won only one of their four away games in the Champions League this season (D1 L2), it was against Club Brugge on matchday 1 (3-0).

 

-Antoine Griezmann has scored or assisted 50% of Atlético Madrid’s goals in the Champions League since last season (11 goals and 3 assists).

 

-Ryad Mahrez is directly involved in six of Leicester’s 10 Champions League goals this season (4 goals, 2 assists).

 

-Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has saved 19 of the 21 shots on target he’s faced this season in the Champions League, including two penalties (both against Sevilla in the round of 16).

 

 

 

 

MANAGERS’ QUOTES

Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid): “This is a team that was able to win the English league. We know that the game will be very tough against a rival that is similar to us.

We also know that we are not facing the same team that went into the knockout draw. We won’t underestimate them.

 

 

Craig Shakespeare (Leicester City): “I don’t think so at all (that Everton defeat would hamper the players). The players are resilient. I have just told them we have been on a really good run and we have to start again.

I think the team selection was with the games coming up in mind. We’ve got a lot coming up – Wednesday, Saturday and Tuesday – but we’ve got a good squad.

Facing a team who have reached the final in two of the last three seasons is a massive challenge but it’s just the kind of tie you expect in the quarter-finals of the Champions League,” admitted Shakespeare.

Atletico Madrid are a very good team with some fantastic individuals with experience in the competition, but we’ll be ready to give everything to progress.

It will be a brilliant occasion for our supporters and for everyone at the club.

 

 

 

FORM GUIDE (all competitions, most recent first)

Atletico Madrid: DWWWDW

Leicester City: LWWWWW

 

 

 

VERDICT: Two sides with almost similar styles. On paper Leicester’s European adventure should end here, yet on paper they shouldn’t have been here in the first place. Time and time again Leicester City have defied the odds. What they have got in energy, drive, determination, compactness, etc, Their Spanish opponents have got it in triple dose. At this stage, experience and quality will be the difference and, of course, Atletico have got it in abundance. Therefore, they will advance  starting with a comfortable win tonight.

 

 

 

RECOMMENDED BET: 1

 

 

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