Atlético de Madrid are in the UEFA Champions League for an 11th consecutive season, and Los Rojiblancos are hoping to exorcise the ghosts of a group stage past and return to the knockout rounds. Their first opponent this season will be Lazio, last season’s Serie A runners-up.
Atlético Madrid are still weakened due to various injuries, a plague that worsened during Saturday’s heavy 3-0 loss at Valencia. Atlético lost Thomas Lemar for the rest of the season after the Frenchman suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in his right leg late in the first half, while neither Koke nor Rodrigo de Paul is fit enough to make the trip to Rome for Tuesday night’s game.
The training session on Sunday featured more players in the gym or on the sidelines nursing injuries than it did players actually on the grass at the club training center in Majadahonda. It’s a worrying omen for Atlético as head coach Diego Simeone tries to prevent Saturday’s bump in the road at Mestalla from snowballing into another Champions League nightmare.
“We have a way of playing, and we didn’t get off to a good start the other day,” Simeone told the media on Monday. “We couldn’t change the direction of the game and we played badly, but another one comes soon. Now it’s the Champions League, a competition that has been difficult for us lately, but I think we will play well.”
“Losing is always tough,” Álvaro Morata said during Monday’s joint press conference. “But we quickly put it out of our minds by being strong as a group. We have a positive mindset, and we have a great opportunity against Lazio. Football continues, and that’s the important thing.”
Lazio — where Simeone played between 1999 and 2003 — are in desperate need of a win after a slow start in Serie A. Maurizio Sarri’s men have lost three of their first four games domestically, including a 3-1 defeat on Saturday to Juventus. Top striker Ciro Immobile has scored only one goal so far this season, and only three other sides in the Italian top flight have shipped more goals to this point than the Biancocelesti’s seven.
“The season is just starting, some teams play well at the start but the important thing is how it ends,” Simeone said. “It’s true that the two teams haven’t started very well. Lazio has a strong squad, and we’ll surely see a good match tomorrow due to Lazio’s playing style and what we will do.
“I have goosebumps remembering the years I played here, the fans loved me so much and always gave me a lot of warmth. They were years of well-played football here, and we won a lot together.”
Date Sept. 19, 2023
Location Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CEST, 8:00 p.m. BST, 3:00 p.m. ET, 12:00 p.m. PT
Available TV/streaming Paramount+/CBS Sports Network (United States), Movistar Liga de Campeones 2 (Spain), TNT Sports 6 (United Kingdom)