Wednesday night in Champions League Group D throws up a monumental encounter at the Vicente Calderon, Madrid in a repeat of last year’s semi-final meeting between Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich. A 2-1 defeat in Germany saw Atletico progress on away goals after Saul Niguez’s solo effort sealed a 1-0 win for the Spanish side on home turf, and with both sides having started the season in fine style, we appear set for another pulsating match-up on Wednesday.
Atletico’s tight victory in last year’s semi-final ultimately proved futile as Los Rojiblancos were again defeated in heart-breaking fashion by bitter city rivals Real in the Milan final. Yet Diego Simeone’s men should take heart from the fact that to reach that final they overcame both 2015 winners Barcelona and 2013 winners Bayern, and defensively the Spanish side yet again look formidable – two goals against in six La Liga games to date is sufficient proof that the team have the defensive capabilities to again challenge the big boys, both in La Liga and in Europe. Their domestic form has not been without fault – draws including the season-opening 1-1 draw with Alaves have been a source of frustration for fans and the team alike, and Atleti currently sit third in the La Liga table behind Barcelona and Real. Yet with a 1-0 victory already under their belt in their opening Group D encounter in Eindhoven, Simeone’s side look to be once more that which we have come to expect…extremely difficult to beat.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern currently hold the mantle of Europe’s form team with five wins from five in the Bundesliga complementing their 5-0 win in their opening Group D game against Rostov. Including their two-legged German DFL-Supercup win over Dortmund in August, the Bavarian’s have only conceded a single goal in eight competitive matches to date, scoring 22 in the process and winning seven of those matches. Ancelotti has slipped in seamlessly to the head-coaching position vacated by Pep Guardiola and with experienced players such as Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery returning to the fold after lengthy spells out injured, and new signings such as Renato Sanches and Mats Hummels already proving their worth, the German giants look a formidable force and undoubtedly justify their position as second favourites for a sixth European crown come May.
Team news and head-to-head
Amazingly, last season’s semi-final was only the second time these two sides had been drawn together in European competition, the first time being the 1974 European Cup Final which Bayern won 4-0 in a replay after dashing Atletico hopes with a last minute equaliser in the original 1-1 draw. With last season’s meetings having been so tight, and the two team’s having only conceded three goals in a combined 15 matches so far this current campaign, an immensely tight game promises to lie in store, especially with the two sides having not changed significantly since matching each other only a matter of months ago. For Atletico, their 1-0 win against Deportivo on Sunday proved costly as midfielder Augusto Fernandez suffered knee ligament damage, while Jose Gimenez has also been ruled out of Wednesday’s game after being taken off with a thigh strain in the same game. Tiago also remains sidelined with a hamstring injury. For the visitors, Kingsley Coman is a major doubt after being taken off in his side’s win over Hamburg, while Arjen Robben failed to appear from the bench in that game as his continues his journey back to full fitness following an abductor injury. Douglas Costa could also be in contention to start after fighting his way back from a hamstring injury which ruled him out of Bayern’s last three matches, but Holger Badstuber remains unavailable with muscular problems.
Atletico Madrid – 3.140
Draw – 3.160
Bayern Munich – 2.600
All odds courtesy of Pinnacle and correct as of 14:00 GMT on 27/09/16
By: Steve Paget