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Atlético de Madrid - Feyenoord Rotterdam: Everything up for grabs in Group E

The Dutch champions land in the Spanish capital.

UEFA Champions League 2023/24 MD-1Press Conference Atletico Madrid Photo by ANP via Getty Images

Atletico de Madrid will hope to kickstart its Champions League campaign on Wednesday night when reigning Eredivisie champions Feyenoord visit the Cívitas Metropolitano for the first time.

Atlético Madrid were held to a bitterly-disappointing draw in matchday one of the group stage as Lazio goalkeeper Ivan Provedel headed in his team’s equalizer with the last action of the game. Feyenoord, meanwhile, are the early group leaders after easing to a 2-0 win in Rotterdam over nine-man Celtic two weeks ago.

“We’re hoping to play a great game and continue along the path we’ve laid in recent weeks,” head coach Diego Simeone told the media on Tuesday.

Feyenoord v Go Ahead Eagles - Dutch Eredivisie
Arne Slot’s Feyenoord have scored 26 goals in seven league games this season and are yet to lose.
Photo by NESimages/Herman Dingler/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Atlético and Feyenoord have never met in official competition — and neither side will be close to full strength on Wednesday evening. Feyenoord coach Arne Slot will not have star striker Santiago Giménez available as the Mexico international is finishing a two-game suspension from European competition, while winger Luka Ivanušeć is ruled out after he suffered an ankle injury during the Celtic game.

“Every coach who loses important players knows how to handle the process,” Simeone said. “As a coach we need the players, but whether it is (Pablo) Barrios, who came from the national team and arrived with a foot injury, or (Çağlar) Söyüncü who left and came back with a groin problem, these are the injuries that we suffer. Nobody will care tomorrow whether one or the other plays.”

For Atlético, José Giménez (foot swelling) is the latest player to end up on the treatment table, further weakening a defense that shipped two first-half goals against Cádiz on Sunday. The only two healthy central defenders Simeone will have Wednesday are Mario Hermoso and Axel Witsel, although César Azpilicueta (blow to the left leg) trained with the team Tuesday and should be in the squad.

Atletico Madrid v Cadiz CF - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

“Last year was a surprise, but I feel very comfortable (in defense) and I can help the team,” Witsel said during Tuesday’s joint press conference. “In the end, it doesn’t matter if you are a defender, a winger or a midfielder — as a player you always want to play, wherever El Cholo needs me.”

The fitness of Azpilicueta will in large part determine how Simeone’s defense lines up Wednesday night. Rodrigo de Paul could get a start in midfield after he returned on Sunday from his own injury layoff, while Cholo will have to make a key decision up top — should Álvaro Morata come right back into the team following his suspension in LaLiga, or should Ángel Correa keep his place after he led Atleti’s rally against Cádiz?

Date Oct. 4, 2023

Location Estadio Metropolitano, Madrid

Kickoff time 6:45 p.m. CEST, 5:45 p.m. BST, 12:45 p.m. ET, 9:45 a.m. PT

Available TV/streaming Paramount+ (United States), Movistar Liga de Campeones (Spain), TNT Sports 1 (United Kingdom)