Atlético Madrid have traveled again to Germany to play Bayer Leverkusen in what promises to be an exciting and intense Champions League Round of 16 first leg. Atlético will be looking to nab that vital away goal ahead of the return leg on March 15 against a familiar opponent.
Two years ago, Leverkusen proved to be tricky customers for Atleti, but los colchoneros managed to get by to the quarterfinals on penalties. Diego Simeone and Atleti are now more experienced and driven in the Champions League after another final loss last May and look stronger than ever in this competition.
Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt pointed out in his recent interviews that Atlético are not the same side as a couple years ago. This comment was backed by Leverkusen left-back Wendell, who implied that Atleti are a much stronger side and it will be a tough, tough challenge for his team to breach a defence that conceded only twice in the group stage.
After winning the last three games in LaLiga, los rojiblancos are in high spirits, and opt increased when Jan Oblak was cleared to return following his shoulder injury. The Slovene has trained with total normality since last Wednesday, before the team faced Sporting, and it is a game-time decision as to if he starts Tuesday.
Leverkusen, on the other hand, have been fairly average in the Bundesliga sitting in eighth position on the ladder. However, revenge for 2015 can be a motivating factor for a team that Simeone is not taking lightly.
“We are going to find a team that deploys everything their coach asks: heart, enthusiasm, intention and a lot of intensity,” Simeone said. “They are probably one of the most intense rivals we have played in the Champions.”
Every Atleti fan should know that their team is more than capable of winning the Champions League after getting oh so close last time. And for the team, it is time to prove their credentials to the world once again.
Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen 0 – 1 Atlético Madrid
Goalkeepers: Moyá, Oblak, Moreira
Defense: Filipe Luís, Savić, Lucas, Vrsaljko, Giménez
Midfielders: Koke, Saúl, Carrasco, Gabi, Thomas, Gaitán, Caio
Strikers: Griezmann, Torres, Correa, Gameiro