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Three keys to an Atlético Madrid win over Qarabag

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Atlético face a must-win match in Group C.

Leganes v Atletico Madrid - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

1. Yannick Carrasco needs to have one of those games.

Antoine Griezmann has the flu and his status remains uncertain, while Koke is almost certainly out with muscular problems. Diego Simeone can still patch together a good midfield in the Spain international’s absence, but without his French star, Simeone faces a more daunting task: coaxing goals out of an attack centered on its absent star.

Ángel Correa will likely start, Kévin Gameiro may as well. But Atlético Madrid are going to need a mercurial winger to step up and take command in order to leave Azerbaijan with three points.

These moments aren’t too big for Carrasco. He dominated Astana on this matchday two years ago. He beat Bayern Munich and Rostov by himself in last year’s group stage. He’s scored in a freaking Champions League final. And on Wednesday against Qarabag, the 24-year-old is going to have to summon a signature performance to prevent Atlético’s attack from collapsing.

2. Solve the right back problem.

More than one-third of Qarabag’s attacks in their 2-1 loss to AS Roma in matchday two originated on the left-hand side. You may be aware that Atlético have issues at right back. Simeone has selected just one natural right back to take to Azerbaijan: the oft-distrusted injured Šime Vrsaljko. Either Vrsaljko or José Giménez will man the position at Baku Olympic Stadium — my guess is it will be Giménez, for his pace. But whoever it is has to keep an eye on Mahir Madatov, the 20-year-old attacker who’s already scored six goals between domestic and continental play this season.

3. Control the aerial game.

Atlético’s recent struggles to win headers culminated in Saturday’s draw versus Barcelona, in which los rojiblancos won a paltry three aerial duels. Luckily (perhaps), Qarabag haven’t been much better in the air — midfielder Pedro Henrique and goalkeeper Ibrahim Šehić are responsible for more than half of Qarabag’s aerial wins from the first two group stage contests. Saúl and Diego Godín need to lead the charge here; Atleti running the aerial game means more successful long ball distribution and better defensive disruption.

What do YOU think Atlético need to do to beat Qarabag? Have your say in the comments.