Spanish La Liga Champions Atlético Madrid host Italian giant Juventus at the Vicente Calderón Stadium on Wednesday Night
Atletico came into their first group-stage match on the back of a 2-1 win against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Unfortunately, their trip to Piraeus brought them crashing back to earth with a thud. A surprise 3-2 loss to Olympiacos on matchday one has heaped extra significance on to Atletico Madrid’s home Champions League encounter with Juventus on Wednesday night.
Without Diego Simeone on the sidelines and possibly emotionally spent, the Spanish champions fell behind 2-0 after a half-hour. They clawed one back, but their attempt at a comeback was dashed by Konstantinos Mitroglou with 18 minutes left. Antoine Griezmann was able to make the scoreline a bit more respectable late on, but it didn’t diminish the shock value of the result.
Consequently, a defeat against the Italian champions at the Vicente Calderon would leave Diego Simeone’s men, who reached last season’s final in Lisbon, facing an uphill challenge to advance beyond the group stages.
Since being beaten in Greece, Atletico have been in positive form domestically, winning two and drawing one of their three La Liga encounters. Simeone has a near fully fit squad to select from following the return to action from a facial injury of Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic at the weekend. Elsewhere, summer signing Antoine Griezmann has been primarily used as a substitute this season, but the French international may well start.
Juventus have played six matches in all competitions this season. They have yet to allow a goal. Their defense has been very compact till now, it will be enthrilling to see if El Cholo’s men can break Bianconeri’s defense or not. Defense has been one of the hallmarks of this side since Antonio Conte took charge of the team in 2011. In the three years he was manager, the Bianconeri only conceded 67 goals.
Juventus, who defeated struggling side A.C Milan two weeks ago at San Siro after they played Malmo in Champions League; proves that Allegri’s side doesn’t lack fatigue. And so to Buffon, despite being 36 years old and having been written-off by many two years ago he appears to have done a deal with the devil that has made him eternal. He is yet to concede a goal this season. Incredible statistics but fortunately for the home side, Atletico seem to have recovered their firepower and if Gabi doesn’t make it the team can always count on the talents of Koke as holding midfielder with Arda and Griezmann supplying Mandzukic. In fact, who was the last player to score against Buffon? It was Godín, who scored on June 24th in a World Cup group stage match where his only goal knocked the Azzurri out from the World Cup. It will be a night for the goalkeepers under the glare of the floodlights.
Carlos Tevez has scored six times in his last four games and has a brace in two of the last three. Arturo Vidal got his shooting boots on last week against Cesena, and summer signing Alvaro Morata opened his account with his new club on Saturday.
Juve fans should not get ahead of themselves: The best opposition they’ve faced so far have arguably been A.C Milan, who are in the process of a large-scale rebuild. At this stage the only ones on the peninsula that can truly compete with Juventus are Roma—and Juve play them on Sunday.
These two clubs have never played each other. Juve’s last encounter with Spanish opposition came against Atletico’s archrivals, Real Madrid in last year’s group stage. They performed well in a 2-1 loss at the Bernabeu and arguably should have won two weeks later in a 2-2 draw in Turin.
Atletico’s last clash with an Italian side came in last year’s round of 16, when they hammered A.C Milan 5-1 on aggregate.
As Gabi is doubtful, Simeone will go for Tiago if the former is not fit in time. Whereas the visitors will miss some key players, Evergreen Andrea Pirlo, Andrea Barzagli, Martin Caceres (doubtful) and new signing has been ruled out due to injuries. Though Chile’s star player Arturo Vidal is fit and he is most likely to start ahead of Pereyra.
Atletico Madrid: Moyà; Juanfran, Miranda, Godín, Siqueira; Gabi, Koke, Raúl García, Greizmann; Turan, Mandžukic
Juventus: Buffon; Bonucci, Chiellini, Ogbonna; Liechtsteiner, Pogba, Marchisio, Vidal, Evra ; Tévez, Llorente
Atletico Madrid 2-1 Juventus