A late Eduardo Salvio wondergoal in Atlético’s Europa League quarter-final first leg fixture against Hannover a week ago helped the young Argentine’s team to a 2-1 victory over the German outfit that los Colchoneros will have to defend on foreign soil Thursday.
Senegalese striker Mame Diouf’s earlier goal, which had cancelled out Falcao’s opening strike at the Vicente Calderón, puts quite a bit of pressure on Diego Simeone’s men to get on the scoreboard early once proceedings get underway at the AWD-Arena at 21:05 CET.
A goal by Atleti before the expected 49,000 strong Die Roten faithful inside the stadium would force the Lower Saxony side to have to score twice should they want to prolong proceedings.
A 1-0 shutout or a victory by two goals or more in favour of the hosts would result in a Hannover upset of their Spanish foes.
Los Rojiblancos have won all five Europa League games under new boss Diego Simeone and have strung together eight consecutive victories in UEFA play since last losing to Udinese in Italy in the Group Stage, but their Bundesliga opponents have never lost at home in European competition, so on Thursday, something’s got to give.
Atleti midfielder Diego, on-loan for one season from Wolfsburg, will return to a ground he has set foot on during his exploits in the German first division.
“We expect a spectacular atmosphere, as always in the Bundesliga,” the playmaker said in a pre-game press conference.
“The stadium is modern, very beautiful and will be packed. It’s a great atmosphere to play in.”
He continued: “They will be a little stronger with the support of their fans…but we have no fear. We’re going there to play a great match.
“We have to be smart and play the game normally. We’re not going for the draw, rather, we’re going to win like always, but by playing smart. We know we have an advantage and we’re going to play with intelligence.”
Given the suspensions of Gabi, Arda and Juanfran, who each saw a third yellow card in the home fixture of this match-up last week, and the unavailability of Antonio López and Sílvio through injury, Simeone was forced to call-up reinforcements from Atlético’s reserve side.
17-year-old Atlético B midfielder Saúl, who is certainly no stranger to the first team – having frequently appeared on our squad lists of late – was handed a plane ticket to Germany, as was first-timer Ndoye, our very own Senegalese striker, despite only having started in four Atlético B games this season reports our resident Atlético cantera expert Billy ‘Big Dog’ Edwards.
The side that comes out on top Thursday evening will await the winner of the match-up between AZ Alkmaar and Valencia in the semi-finals, as the first leg will be played in either Madrid or Hanover.
Atlético match selection:
Goalkeepers: Courtois, Sergio Asenjo
Defenders: Godín, Filipe Luis, Domínguez, Perea, Miranda
Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Tiago, Salvio, Assunçao, Koke, Diego, Ndoye, Saúl,
Forwards: Adrián, Falcao, Pizzi
Hannover match selection: TBA