Atlético Madrid will try for a third consecutive win on Tuesday night, as the Rojiblancos travel to Germany to continue UEFA Champions League group stage action against Bayer Leverkusen.
Atlético and Leverkusen will renew acquaintances after last meeting in this competition’s group stage three years ago. The past six meetings between these two teams have all taken place in the Champions League — including a classic round of 16 tie during the 2014/15 season, which Atleti took on penalties in the old Vicente Calderón.
“It’s very difficult to reach the Champions League group stage 10 years in a row,” Diego Simeone said Monday. “We have grown a lot, and with the possibilities that the club has given us thanks to the players brought in, the competition will demand our best.”
While Atlético kicked off Group B action last week with a dramatic 101st-minute victory over FC Porto, Leverkusen lost 1-0 to Club Brugge at Jan Breydel Stadium. Coach Gerardo Seoane took over at the start of last season and guided Bayer to 19 wins and a third-place finish in the Bundesliga, but after six rounds this season, his side sits 17th with one win and 11 goals conceded.
Leverkusen’s struggles can partially be attributed to significant injuries — especially to veteran winger Karim Bellarabi and teenage star Florian Wirtz, who tore his ACL six months ago.
“I have great respect for the German teams,” Simeone said. They are very strong mentally, they’re tough, they don’t let their guard down and they compete very well, like Leverkusen when we faced each other (in previous years). I liked their performance against Brugge, they played a good game with speed and attractive play. They lost, but deserved more.”
Atlético’s own injury list also remains several players long. Though Jan Oblak has been named in the squad after missing Saturday’s victory over Celta Vigo with a muscle problem, his status remains in the air until Tuesday morning. Central defenders José Giménez and Stefan Savić are still unavailable, and playmaker Thomas Lemar will not be risked after he suffered a muscular contracture during the Celta game.
João Félix did not train on Sunday, but he has been included in the traveling squad. If he does not start, Simeone will likely give Ángel Correa the nod to start alongside Álvaro Morata after the Argentine scored his first goal this season to kick off Saturday’s 4-1 win.
“I’m lucky enough to play for this club for a third time,” said Morata, who has started all six of Atlético’s games this season. “It’s different when you already know the training methods and everyone in the club, and more experience has helped me mature. ... We have to think about the exciting things that lie ahead. We have a great team.”
Date Sept. 13, 2022
Location BayArena, Leverkusen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. BST, 3:00 p.m. MST, 12:00 p.m. PST