Atletico ‘inspired’ by possibility of home final
Atletico Madrid and Juventus go head-to-head in the Champions League knock-outs for the first time on Wednesday night.
The pair both hold unwanted European Cup records – Juventus have finished as runners-up seven times, more than any other team in the competition’s history, while Atletico are the only team to reach three finals without ever winning the tournament.
For the Spanish side though, there is an extra inspiration for victory at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday; should they make it to the final, they will be back in their home stadium which will host the showpiece game for the first time.
“Of course we are inspired by playing a final in our own stadium, in our own city, in front of our own fans,” said manager Diego Simeone. “But it is pointless only to imagine it. The reality will be what we deserve.”
Juventus are running away with Serie A as they chase an eighth straight domestic title, and their 13-point lead over Napoli may well prove unassailable.
That has left their focus strongly on the Champions League – and Paulo Dybala, whose five goals in the competition so far have helped the club to their fifth last-16 clash in a row, thinks they can put that focus to good use and go all the way.
He said: “We’ve got a great squad with some top professionals, who have gained a lot of experience over the course of these years.
“We’re clearly contenders, but we have to go out there and prove it.”
Diego Costa is in contention to play having returned to action in Atletico’s win at Rayo Vallecano last weekend. But Lucas Hernandez missed that game, and looks unlikely to recover in time for Wednesday.
Juan Cuadrado is missing having been absent with injury since December. Alex Sandro, who missed their last game with Frosinone, may return having trained on Tuesday.
Atlético Madrid have met Juventus seven times previously in European competition, although five of those matches were played in the Fairs Cup in the 1960s. In fact, Juventus’ last victory against Atlético Madrid dates back to June 1965 in a Fairs Cup semi-final second-leg replay (3-1)
Atlético Madrid and Juventus’ only previous Champions League encounter was in the 2014/15 group stages. Only one goal was scored in the two matches, an Arda Turan winner for Atlético at their home stadium of Vicente Calderón
Atlético Madrid are unbeaten in the Champions League against Italian opposition under manager Diego Simeone (W4 D2). In those six games, they have only conceded one goal, by Kaká in a 4-1 win against AC Milan in March 2014
Atlético Madrid have reached the Champions League knockout stages in five of their six campaigns under manager Diego Simeone. The only exception was last season when they finished third in their Champions League group and went on to win the Europa League
Atlético Madrid are unbeaten in their last 12 home games in the Champions League knockout stages (W7 D5). In fact, they’ve only conceded one goal in their last 10 matches at home in the knockout phase, an Isco strike for Real Madrid in May 2017
Only Atlético Madrid (6) have conceded fewer shots on target from inside their own box than Juventus (9) in this season’s Champions League
Juventus have won four of their last five away games in the knockout stages of the Champions League (D1). Their last defeat dates back to March 2016 in the last-16 second leg against Bayern Munich
Antoine Griezmann has scored or assisted a goal in each of his six Champions League games at the Wanda Metropolitano (6 goals, 3 assists). This season, he’s been directly involved in six of Atlético Madrid’s nine Champions League goals (67%), with four goals and two assists – that’s the highest ratio among the 16 teams left in the competition
Paulo Dybala has scored six goals in his last seven Champions League appearances, that’s more than in his previous 24 appearances in the competition with Juventus (5 goals). All 11 of his goals in the competition have come with his left foot
Juventus’s Cristiano Ronaldo has scored only one goal in his last eight Champions League games; he’d found the net 11 times in his eight previous games. He has failed to score in four of his last five UCL games against Atlético Madrid.
Massimiliano Allegri has reached the knockout stages in each of his nine campaigns as manager in the Champions League. He was a beaten finalist in two of the last four seasons with Juventus.
This is another belter. Cristiano Ronaldo is back in Madrid but Atletico don’t give too much away and it will be physical. I must admit that I don’t like watching Atletico Madrid play but I respect them. You could see them getting to 1-0 and then shutting up shop and blocking off Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala and sneaking a result with Antoine Griezmann getting the winner to keep his reputation floating along.