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Atlético Madrid-Bayer Leverkusen: Win and quite possibly in

Somehow, the Rojiblancos’ Champions League future remains in their hands.

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Will Antoine Griezmann’s sizzling streak continue against Bayer Leverkusen?
Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images

Atlético Madrid have failed to score a single goal within the first 90 minutes in any of the opening four Champions League group games, but the Rojiblancos could still end matchday five in a position to qualify from their group if they are able to scrape a win over Bayer Leverkusen.

Wednesday night will see Atlético (1-1-2, 4 points) face a new opportunity in Group B, which first became complicated for the Colchoneros when they lost in Germany to Leverkusen (1-0-3, 3 points).

The surprising Club Brugge (3-1-0, 10 points) have already secured a spot in the round of 16. The Belgian champions will clinch top spot in the group with a home draw against Porto (2-0-2, 6 points) in one of Wednesday’s two early games — meaning Atlético, with a head-to-head advantage over the Portuguese, will know before kickoff whether a win at the Metropolitano will be enough to leap into second place.

FiveThirtyEight’s prediction algorithm now believes Atleti are most likely to finish third in the group and end up in the Europa League.

There has been a managerial shakeup in Leverkusen since Atlético last met Bayer on Sept. 13. Former Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich midfielder Xabi Alonso is now coaching the Bundesliga side. Alonso, who had been coaching Real Sociedad’s B team, has won once from four games as Leverkusen boss, including a heavy 3-0 loss to Porto two weeks ago.

“Alonso was an extraordinary player, with tremendous class,” Diego Simeone told the media at Atlético’s training facility in Majadahonda on Tuesday. “He left a very strong impression in Germany, they gave him the wonderful opportunity to manage a team ... I have seen his Real Sociedad B teams, and he has very clear ideas about his team’s style of football.”

Simeone has used 15 different starting lineup combinations in 15 games this season, but the coach is unlikely to spring many surprises with his Wednesday night lineup. Koke, Thomas Lemar, and Marcos Llorente are all unavailable through injury, but Atlético have found some success — most recently in Sunday’s win at Real Betis — with Geoffrey Kondogbia and Axel Witsel paired in midfield.

Antoine Griezmann is in excellent form playing off Álvaro Morata, while the Saúl-Reinildo left flank has proven functional but unspectacular offensively. It’s kept Yannick Carrasco — stuck on one goal this season — out of the lineup. The Belgian’s last Champions League goal came two editions ago, in a 2-0 win over RB Salzburg at the end of the 2020/21 group stage. Atlético might like to see that drought end Wednesday.

“It’s always good to win, for our confidence,” Carrasco said Tuesday. “There are also moments when we don’t win, and the team knows how to reset their minds and go (again) in search of victory. It’s the strength we have as a group. Winning in the Champions League tomorrow is our goal.”

Date Oct. 26, 2022

Location Estadio Metropolitano, Madrid

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

Available TV/streaming Paramount+ (United States), Movistar Liga de Campeones 2 (Spain), BT Sport 7 (United Kingdom), Stan Sport (Australia)