“It is a final for us, we take it on as one more game because we have experience and we know that the round of 16 is at stake, it is very important and I hope that with our strength we can take initiative in this game.”
Those were Stefan Savić’s words on Tuesday evening as Atlético Madrid landed in Salzburg to finish preparing for its closing group stage match. On Wednesday, Atlético will try to clinch second place from this difficult group, and need a win or draw to do so.
Diego Simeone refused to discuss the alternative.
“The reality is that we have to compete to finish as high as possible and surpass ourselves every year,” Simeone said. “It is the initial objective when the season begins.”
Atleti (six points) have won only one of five group games this season — in Madrid, on matchday two, against Red Bull Salzburg (four points). Jesse Marsch’s side was left for dead after back-to-back losses to Bayern Munich. But after Bayern rescued a point in the Spanish capital and Mergim Berisha scored twice to beat Lokomotiv Moscow away, the tipico Bundesliga champions now can advance to the last 16 for the first time with a victory at Red Bull Arena.
FiveThirtyEight gives Marsch-marshaled Salzburg decent odds to pull off the upset.
“The first leg was an intense match, there were many goals,” Simeone said. “There could be more, there were many situations. I think we are closing in on a game similar to the one that took place at the Wanda.”
Los Colchoneros have progressed to the Champions League knockout stage in each season except one since 2013/14. But the team is a mere slip-up away from Europa League football for the second time in four years. This has not been a banner group stage for the Spanish clubs — crosstown rivals Real Madrid also are in a fight just to reach the knockouts, while Sevilla and Barcelona blew chances to top its groups with heavy losses in matchday 5 (Sevilla) and six (Barça).
“After quarantine, the team has grown,” Simeone said. “We had a good ending (to last season) and this start was consistent. In the Champions League, we have deserved to win more games than we have.”
Cholo will likely start João Félix and Luis Suárez for the first time in a month — this is a great opportunity for the latter to score his first Champions League goal away from home in five years. Yannick Carrasco and Renan Lodi are back in the squad following minor injuries. Šime Vrsaljko has been included too after his recovery from another knee operation.
Date Dec. 9, 2020
Location Red Bull Arena, Salzburg, Austria
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST
Available TV/streaming Movistar Liga de Campeones 1 (Spain), Sky Sport Austria 1 (Austria), CBS All Access (United States), ESPN3 Sur (Uruguay)
This poll is closed