Atletico Madrid v Juventus
Champions League – Wednesday, 18th September – 20:00 GMT – Wanda Metropolitano
The wekeends game against Fiorentina was particularly disappointing, not so much for the result but for the performance from the players. Things looked disjointed, the midfield easily exposed as La Viola doubled up in the centre of the pitch, stifling what little creativity Juve could muster. The attack was left to fend on scraps while the defence looked shaky under pressure. A number of injuries hasn’t helped things with Douglas Costa now sidelined until late October, but thankfully Miralem Pjanic has returned, as confirmed by the Mister in his presser:
“We don’t feel this pressure. We are Juventus, every time we step on to the pitch, the objective is to win, but we also know full well there are 10-12 other teams who feel the same way and have the same resources as we do.
“At this moment, I don’t see Italian football as the favourites going into the Champions League, as over the last 20 years we’ve lost ground. The fault for that goes to everyone, from Presidents to journalists, everything that surrounds the sport.
“I think we need to face this competition with exceptional determination, but also a relaxed mind. We’ve got to get back to enjoying our football, without this illogical phobia.
“Atletico Madrid are one of the teams who can win the Champions League. It’s difficult to fight against the Premier League sides, as they have so much money in the sport.
“Atletico lost an extraordinary player in Antoine Griezmann, but brought in one just as extraordinary in Joao Felix. Saul Niguez has made huge leaps forward and I consider him one of the best in Europe right now.
“Atleti have the players to beat anyone, but unfortunately at this level, you need mental strength, technique, tactics and a bit of luck.
“I think football is the same everywhere you go, ultimately, even if elsewhere in Europe they probably don’t see conceding a goal as a drama to be carried on throughout the week. Our football remains extremely difficult to play in, even if having spent a year abroad, I realised just how high the level of Italian coaching really is. Those differences in terms of tactics are starting to level out a bit, though.
“I didn’t think anything, because I was celebrating my wife’s birthday in peace. I think Conte was told something that wasn’t entirely true. When I commented on the heat and time of our game with Fiorentina, it was about us, not any other teams. I never referred to the others.”
Szczesny is expected to line up in goal with Danilo fit enough to play at right back, De Ligt, Bonucci and Sandro making up the numbers. The midfield is expected to remain unchanged with Khedira, Pjanic and Matuidi making up the three, while Bernardeschi comes in for Costa to partner Higuain and Ronaldo.
4-3-3: Szcesny; Danilo, Bonucci, De Ligt, Sandro; Khedira, Pjanic, Matuidi; Bernardeschi, Higuain, Ronaldo
Chiellini (knee), De Sciglio (thigh), Perin (shoulder), Pjaca (knee), Costa (thigh)
Atletico Madrid Q&A
Thanks to Atletico Fans for providing answers to your questions:
1. From the outside looking in, Atleti have grown immensely over the past decade thanks to some great management. What do you think are the strength and weaknesses (if any) of the club’s management?
The growth has gone beyond anything I could have imagined. The risk is in overreaching. Our salarial cap is about half real and Barca, but we’re expected to compete against them. The João Felix signing is an attempt to roll the dice if you will. It could work out or it could go very badly wrong…
2. With all of Atleti’s transactions, are they better *this season* compared to last?
Definitely. There is a really, really positive atmosphere at the club that there hasn’t been before. I’m very happy
3. Do you expect a shift in El Cholo’s style now with the new personnel on squad?
People have said that this is the case. To be honest, I’m not sure and I think it’s still too early to tell as we haven’t had a full strength squad yet to see what the plan is
4. Jan Oblak may be the best GK in the world. How much longer might he remain at Atleti?
Oblak is now one of the captains. He gets on quietly with the job despite interest from major clubs. He is very good friends with Vrsaljko and Savic which helps. But most importantly – and he has said this – whilst Atleti is up there competing with the best he’s happy.
5. Are you happy with Griezmann departure. And if yes do they believe he stayed one year too much?
I’m absolutely beaming. He was a great player but toxic and I don’t want people like that in my club
6. How do you think they will approach Juve game? Sense of revenge after last year’s elimination?
From the crowd definitely. The players I’m not so sure, it’s a group game rather than a knockout
7. Losing a player like Godin in the back, would this impact significantly the leadership and the defense?
Godin may well be irreplaceable, and we have looked more shaky at the back. Time for Giménez to step Up. The additions of Trippier and Lodi seem really positive though
4-4-2: Oblak; Trippier, Savic, Gimenez, Lodi; Correa, Koke, Niguez, Lemar; Felix, Costa
Vrsaljko, Morata, Partey