Atletico Madrid welcome Bayern Munich to the Vicente Calderon this midweek, with both teams looking to edge ahead in the battle to finish on top of Group D in the first round of this season’s Champions League (7.45pm, Wednesday on BT Sport Extra).
Atletico were beaten finalists in last year’s competition, going down to neighbours and city rivals Real Madrid on penalties after a 1-1 draw at the San Siro in Milan. It was the second time in three years that they had lost to Los Blancos in the final, and Diego Simeone and his players will therefore be even more determined to go all the way this term.
A 1-0 victory over PSV Eindhoven a fortnight ago represents a steady rather than spectacular start, but Atleti have been in fine form domestically of late, overcoming Deportivo La Coruna 1-0, thrashing Sporting Gijon 5-0 and beating Celta Vigo 4-0. They also picked up a point from a tricky trip to the Camp Nou to face champions Barcelona last week.
Bayern have begun the new campaign in perfect fashion, triumphing in all seven of their fixtures in all competitions to date. Russian outfit Rostov were brushed aside by five goals to nil in their opening Champions League encounter to put Bayern at the summit of the early Group D standings. This will be a much sterner test against a side who knocked the Bavarians out of the tournament at the semi-final stage in 2015/16.
It is still early days for Carlo Ancelotti (pictured) at the Allianz Arena. The Italian, who is aiming to collect a fourth Champions League winner’s medal as a manager, replaced Pep Guardiola in the summer. Bayern have looked a little more vulnerable defensively in recent weeks than they did during the Catalan’s tenure, which is something Atletico will look to exploit on Wednesday night.
Atleti midfielder Augusto Fernandez sustained an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury in Sunday’s victory over Deportivo La Coruna and is therefore set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Jose Maria Gimenez will also miss the clash with Bayern due to a groin problem he picked up at the weekend. Tiago and fringe player Alessio Cerci have also been ruled out. Diego Godin is now fully fit following on from a thigh complaint.
France international Antoine Griezmann remains the man to watch for Atletico, who also have the attacking talents of Angel Correa, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Nico Gaitan to call upon.
Bayern will have to make do without the services of Douglas Costa, Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber for their trip to the Spanish capital. Arjen Robben has now returned after an injury to his abductor muscle. The Dutchman, Franck Ribery and Kingsley Coman are all vying for a place on the left flank in Ancelotti’s 4-3-3 formation. Thomas Muller is set to continue on the right and Robert Lewandowski is the obvious choice in the central striker role. The midfield is likely to be composed of Xabi Alonso, Thiago Alcantara and Arturo Vidal, with Jerome Boateng set to partner Javi Martinez in the heart of the backline.
Taking everything in this preview into account, it is probably worth siding with Atletico Madrid to come out on top at the Vicente Calderon this midweek. The game plan for the Spanish side will probably be the same as it was in April, when they pressed Bayern ferociously in the opening 25 minutes before sinking back into a deep and disciplined defensive shape. Simeone’s charges won 1-0 on that occasion and the outcome could be exactly the same this time around, with Godin a good choice for anytime goalscorer given his aerial ability from set-pieces.
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