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Atlético Madrid’s second Champions League group stage contest is against AC Milan, and the visitors know the alternative is rather bleak if they can’t secure three points in Italy.
“Tomorrow is a very important game,” club captain Koke said in Monday’s press conference alongside Diego Simeone. “We have to win.”
Atlético failed to win its opening group stage encounter against Porto a fortnight ago, while Milan came out on the losing end in a 3-2 thriller against Liverpool. The English side are entrenched as the early favorites in Group B, but Simeone knows Atleti can’t eye top spot before winning even one game.
“Our opponents know us better (than last season),” Cholo said Monday. “We have to evolve and change.”
Milan have evolved without the injured Zlatan Ibrahimović, who will miss Tuesday night’s clash with Atlético. Despite several absences, the rossoneri are unbeaten in Serie A, with five wins and a draw to go with a plus-nine goal difference.
This is the first meeting between Atlético and Milan since the 2013/14 Champions League, when Simeone’s men eliminated the Italian side in the round of 16. Additionally, this is Atleti’s first visit to San Siro for a competitive match since the 2016 Champions League final loss to Real Madrid.
“We know that we are going to face a strong opponent, with good players and a dynamic style,” Simeone said. “We will try to take the game to where we can hurt them.”
The rojiblancos might stand a better chance of doing just that if they can count on Koke and Thomas Lemar. Both players have resumed full training and were included in Tuesday’s squad. João Félix will make his return from a league suspension, but Stefan Savić’s will continue and he remains unavailable for European competition.
“(Koke, Lemar, and Félix) are all very important, we have a very balanced squad and players with great reputations,” Simeone said. “We will have to find those who best represent what we need for tomorrow’s game.”
“For us, each game is key,” Koke said. “At this club, we want to play each game as if it were a final, and that will always be our mentality.”
Date Sept. 28, 2021
Location San Siro, Milan, Lombardy, Italy
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CEST, 8:00 p.m. BST, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST
SB Nation opposition blog The AC Milan Offside