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FBL-EUR-C1-ATLETICO MADRID-TRAINING
Luis Suárez is expected to start at the Dragão.
Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

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FC Porto-Atlético Madrid: Now or never

A victory alone may not be enough for Atlético to escape the group stage.

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Atlético Madrid must defeat Porto on Tuesday night to have any chance of qualifying for the Champions League’s last 16 — but the rojiblancos will require a favor from Liverpool in order to get out of Group B.

Atlético (four points) will overtake Porto (five points) for second place in the group with a win, but the current sensations are not good after Diego Simeone’s men lost to Mallorca at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday.

Making matters worse for Simeone’s already-fragile defense, Mario Hermoso is Atleti’s only available center-back for this game. José Giménez failed to recover in time from a head knock, while Stefan Savić could miss up to a month with a new muscle injury. Felipe is finishing a two-game suspension.

FBL-EUR-C1-ATLETICO MADRID-TRAINING Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

“I believe (in the players available) because I train with them, I know their character, and I trust them,” Simeone said on Monday.

Should Atlético win Tuesday, the rojiblancos can qualify if AC Milan draw or lose to Liverpool at home. If the rossoneri beat a rotated Liverpool side, Atlético will need to win by a margin of at least one goal greater than Milan — for example, if Milan win 1-0, Atleti would need to beat Porto 2-0.

“(Porto) are an extraordinary team that has been doing very well. They have a structured system, a lot of players to recover the ball, an intense playing style with fast players,” Simeone said. “They are a very good team that plays well. They are favored because they have more points than Milan and us.”

FBL-EUR-C1-PORTO-TRAINING Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP via Getty Images

Porto are coming off a 3-0 win over Portimonense last Friday. Coach Sergio Conceição has not had veteran defenders Pepe and Iván Marcano on hand, but he’s found solutions — Porto have conceded only once against the non-Liverpool teams in the group. The onus is on Simeone to do the same, lest Atlético drop into the Europa League for the second time in five years or exit European competition altogether.

“This team has enough character and personality to move forward and get out of these situations,” Marcos Llorente told the media Monday. “We have already shown it, and this situation will be no different. I did not hear whistles against Mallorca, when the goals went in I listened to the fans cheering more than ever. They are very important to us, and they know it.”

“The truth is there is little time between games. When we have time to work, we will. Now, we try to talk and find ways to feel good on the pitch, to find ways in which we can control the game so things will naturally appear,” Simeone said.

“Winning is psychologically healthy.”

Date Dec. 7, 2021

Location Estádio do Dragão, Porto, Portugal

Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12 p.m. PST

Available TV/streaming Paramount+ (United States), Movistar+ (Spain), BT Sport ESPN (United Kingdom)

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