Atlético Madrid face some welcome respite from its faltering league campaign on Tuesday night, with the pressure off as they travel to face Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Having already won Group D ahead of the German side, the Rojiblancos will be looking to become only the sixth side in history to record a perfect group stage with a win at the Allianz Arena. When the draw was made, most would have thought that the final matchday meeting in Munich to have a lot more meaning to it, so the fact that it’s a dead rubber match will be a relief to fans given the team's recent form. Having won just two of the past six league matches, alarm bells have been raised at Atlético as Espanyolnshared the spoils at the weekend with a 0-0 draw at the Vicente Calderón. Cholo’s men have been far from their best in La Liga, looking short of ideas and without the character and identity that has brought so much success in recent years.
However, in the Champions League we’ve seen the more efficient, dogged team that can grind out results and outplay Europe’s elite on a tactical and physical level. With five wins out of five, the red and whites can join Milan (92/93), PSG (94/95), Spartak Moscow (95/96), Barcelona (02/03) and Real Madrid (11/12 & 14/15) and take maximum points from the group stage. None of those teams went on to actually lift the trophy though, and given our current issues, the match could be a good chance to experiment and give fringe players a run against quality opposition. Bayern will want revenge for their loss at the Calderón back in September and their semi-final defeat last season, but manager Carlo Ancelotti is also expected to rotate according to reports.
The Bavarian side also haven’t had things go all its own way this season. Bayern currently trail newly promoted side RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga and lost to Champions League debutants Rostov two weeks ago to concede top spot in the group. Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference that Jerome Boateng won’t play due to a shoulder injury, but Arturo Vidal and Philipp Lahm are likely to feature. Xabi Alonso will definitely miss out.
Atleti on the other hand have Fernando Torres back fit, but Diego Simeone has opted to rest Filipe Luís only just back from injury (and a booking away from suspension) as well as Tiago Mendes. The likes of Lucas Hernández, Sime Vrsaljko and Ángel Correa could be in for starting roles, and teenage midfielder Caio Henrique has also been called up after his impressive debut against Guijuelo last week. Maybe even Thomas Partey gets a call.
This is a good match for Atlético to figure out and try some new things. There is not much at stake besides pride, so you can almost expect a laid-back Atleti.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Oblak, Moyá, Moreira
Defenders: Godín, Savic, Vrsaljko, Lucas, Juanfran, Giménez
Midfielders: Koke, Saúl, Carrasco, Gabi, Thomas, Gaitán, Caio
Forwards: Griezmann, Torres, Correa, Gameiro
Referee: Clément Turpin (France)