The two teams that eliminated last season’s Champions League finalists will square off in the Portuguese capital, with a semifinal berth on the line in this year’s unprecedented edition.
Atlético Madrid and RasenBallsport Leipzig will play a single-match quarterfinal at the home of Sporting Clube de Portugal as the 2019/2020 Champions League campaign winds down. The victor will face Paris Saint-Germain next Tuesday.
“It is a new competition for everyone,” Jan Oblak said Wednesday. “Nobody has experience in playing a [single knockout] game...we both have the same chance to win, and that’s how the game will be.”
Though it is a bit misleading due to a lengthy mid-season break, Los Rojiblancos have not lost a competitive match in over six months. They enter Estádio José Alvalade on an 18-match unbeaten run, and this Champions League quarterfinal is the team’s fifth in seven years. RB Leipzig ended the Bundesliga season with just one loss from 15 games and have reached the last eight for the first time in its 424-game history. Just for reference — Koke has played 32 more games in his career than Leipzig have played in its entire history.
But Diego Simeone isn’t focused on that or much of anything else, really. Not even Atlético’s impressive record against German sides — none of them has knocked out Atleti in European competition since 1979/80.
“I am not focusing on anything that does not help lead us in to [Thursday’s] game,” Simeone said. “What others say doesn’t concern us. We’re only concerned about our opponent, with its great coach.”
Possible XI Oblak; Trippier, Giménez, Savić, Lodi; Herrera, Saúl, Koke, Carrasco; Llorente, Costa.
Prediction Leipzig have rung up 105 goals in 45 games this season. It’s a highly-impressive number for Julian Nagelsmann’s men, as the first-year coach has worked to install a possession-based game which changes attacking points regularly. However, the since-departed Timo Werner accounted for 40 of those 105 goals, so Nagelsmann’s men will have to do this by committee — which does add an air of unpredictability.
Meanwhile, we know generally how Atlético will set up against a possession-based side. Losing Ángel Correa will strip the mattress makers of a tricky, versatile Energizer bunny, but a single-legged quarterfinal will offer a chance for anyone to be the hero. Simeone will have a lot of punch on his bench with Álvaro Morata, João Félix, Vitolo, and likely Thomas Partey available in reserve.
It’s going to come down to the details and the team that exhibits less rust. Atleti relish being an underdog more than a favorite, and Simeone’s side will have to play like it — physical and disruptive against an attacking opponent. It will be tough, but I think Los Colchoneros can do it. 1-0, Atlético
My record on the (long) season 25-24
Date Aug. 13, 2020
Location Estádio José Alvalade, Lisbon, Portugal
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 WET, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST
Available TV/streaming Movistar Liga de Campeones (Spain), Sky Sport 1/HD (Germany), BT Sport 1 (United Kingdom), CBS All Access (United States), Eleven Sports 1 (Portugal), Fox Sports (Argentina), 5Sport (Israel), beIN Sports HD 1 (Qatar), CCTV-5 (China)