How Atletico are shaping up for our last-16 meeting
It’s been just over two months since Manchester United were drawn to play Atletico Madrid in the Champions League for the first time in history.
The two sides will duel for the first time since 1991/92 next Wednesday evening in the last-16 first leg at the modern Wanda Metropolitano home.
And with the clash now just around the corner, it seems like an apt time to take a closer look at how Diego Simeone’s side are shaping up for a historic meeting…
Just like United, Atletico have also been in league action over the course of this midweek. A day after the Reds overcame Brighton 2-0 in the Premier League, they were narrowly edged out 1-0 at home to the bottom side in La Liga, Levante.
Atleti went behind to a 53rd-minute opener from visiting midfielder Gonzalo Melero before thinking they had salvaged a point deep into stoppage time via top-scorer Angel Correa’s impressive overhead kick, but it was to be disallowed for a foul in the build-up.
It meant a first home defeat since early December for our upcoming opponents, who now occupy fifth place in the table, sitting outside of the Champions League places on goal difference.
The Spanish side have been renowned across Europe in recent years under Simeone for the defensive nature in which they approach games that can often lead to low-scoring results.
However, their recent record suggests that there could be goals in store during next week’s tie. Their 1-0 loss on Wednesday is actually the anomaly of their last five league outings, with at least four goals combined in each of the previous four.
Last weekend, they overcame Getafe 4-3 off the back of a 4-2 loss to Barcelona, a 3-2 victory over Valencia and a 2-2 draw in Villarreal.
Aside from league matters, and just prior to that run of goal-fests, Atleti also had to deal with disappointment in the cups, having been knocked out of both the Copa del Rey and the Supercopa de Espana at the last-16 and semi-final stages respectively since the turn of the year.
Star forward Antoine Griezmann hasn’t featured in the league since December but Spanish media outlet AS are reporting that the World Cup winner is close to overcoming a muscle problem that he recently had a relapse with, meaning he could be fit in time to face United.
Denmark international Daniel Wass was also absent for the midweek outing due to a knee injury picked up in the recent defeat to Barcelona. It’s one in which he was expected to be out for at least a month with, which will all but certainly rule him out of next week’s tie and make him a doubt for the return leg in March too.
One confirmed absentee that Atleti will be without next week, and at Old Trafford on March 15, is Belgian winger Yannick Carrasco. The 28-year-old recently tested positive for COVID-19 and has missed the club’s last two matches but will be ineligible to play in our last-16 tie anyway, as he serves the first two games of a three-match UEFA suspension for a foul on Porto’s Otavio in the final outing of their group-stage campaign.
Our hosts will travel to Osasuna for a La Liga clash that gets under way at 15:15 GMT on Saturday, a day before United’s trip to Leeds.
All attentions will then turn to Wednesday’s game, as both sides look to garner an advantage to take into the second leg at Old Trafford on March 15.
Be sure to keep across ManUtd.com and our United App next week for all of the build-up to our trip to the Spanish capital, including Tuesday’s pre-match press conference in which Ralf Rangnick will be joined by a member of his squad to preview the tie.