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Three keys to an Atlético win over Leicester City

Plus a predicted XI for the Champions League quarterfinal first leg.

Real Madrid CF v Club Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images
  1. DON’T CONCEDE. SERIOUSLY. JUST DON’T. And don’t take this key for granted. Atlético Madrid have kept a clean sheet in 15 of the past 17 Champions League home matches and have conceded just five times in 21 overall over the life of the Diego Simeone Era. It would be a really good idea to continue that run on Wednesday.

Looking back at the Round of 16, Sevilla were pummeling Leicester City and easily could have been 3-or 4-0 up. But Jorge Sampaoli’s side lost its focus and were caught out by an opportunistic Jamie Vardy, whose away goal kept the tie alive and eventually spelled doom for the Pizjuán club.

There’s a lesson to be learned there. Leicester have depth and pace on the wings in Marc Albrighton, Demarai Gray and Riyad Mahrez. Vardy has scored in four of Leicester’s past five league games, and Islam Slimani is a pure poacher. The Foxes will not have captain Wes Morgan available in defense, but Craig Shakespeare will not care too much as long as they can take an away goal back to King Power Stadium.

FiveThirtyEight has given Atleti a 66% chance to win the first leg and a 23% chance to draw. The Spanish press has bleated about how this will be a mismatch. Atleti need to get down and dirty in what probably will be an ugly first leg and ensure the English champions fly home with nothing to show for their trip to Madrid.

2. Let Leicester have the ball. Atlético have not played with more than 40 percent possession since the 0-0 draw against Bayer Leverkusen on March 15; indeed, the last time Atleti saw more of the ball than the opposition at the Calderón was in the 2-0 win over Leganés on Feb. 4. Leicester, meanwhile, saw less than 30 percent of the ball in the second leg against Sevilla, and in the four league games the Foxes have played since then (three wins and a loss) they have recorded possession totals of 41, 48, 55 and 40.

These figures indicate precisely why Wednesday’s game could well be a war of attrition: neither team thrives with the ball. Los colchoneros can’t fall into the trap Leicester laid out for Sevilla and will lay out again. Do the right thing: try to make the Foxes ring up more possession and dare them to break you down.

3. Keep cool, make the Foxes lose theirs. Leicester have four players a yellow card away from suspension: center back Robert Huth, midfielder Wilfred Ndidi (who also is battling an ankle ailment) and forwards Slimani and Vardy. Let’s zero in on the first two players. Leicester’s back line is already missing Morgan and has been hit for six goals in the past four games, while Ndidi has been a Tasmanian Devil in a midfield of Foxes. If Atleti’s pace and rapid transition game - looking at you, Yannick Carrasco - can force Huth and/or Ndidi into last-ditch fouls, then Shakespeare could be without a Duke of Albany or an Antonio next Tuesday.

Predicted XI: Oblak; Juanfran, Godín, Savić, Filipe Luís; Carrasco, Gabi, Saúl, Koke; Griezmann, Torres.