Champions League preview: Atlético vs. PSV

Dutch champs to enter the Vicente Calderón after first leg stalemate

The first leg was a tightly contested affair

The first leg was a tightly contested affair

Come Tuesday night, PSV Eindhoven will be relieved they are entering the Vicente Calderon having managed to scrape out a 0-0 draw from their first leg last month.

The Dutch side played the remaining 20 minutes of that fixture with 10 men and held off their visitors from giving their scoreboard operator something to do.

However, given that the pressure wasn’t on the hosts, much of Atleti’s worldwide support saw the first leg as a reminder that for much of February, their team couldn’t score many goals and often failed to do so altogether. For much of that month, when Antoine Griezmann struggled, the team inevitably struggled to string together wins.

Much of the storyline remains the same for the second leg – PSV are still barely leading the Eredivisie, Atleti are still in second in the Primera, and their only hope for a title is the Champions League.

Although los Rojiblancos are coming off a 3-0 Deportivo win at the weekend, and goal scoring isn’t an issue at the moment, one question remains – can they carry it over into the Holy Grail of Euro competitions?

Read on as looks to identify each team’s recent form, their key players, their probable starting players and more.

Atletico Madrid

Latest Run of Form Through All Competitions – D-W-W-W-W (Furthest right being most recent.)

It was fitting that the last game of February saw Griezmann end his goal scoring drought against Real Madrid, earn a deserved win at the Bernabeu, and usher his squad into March with a bevy of goals to be happy about.

Last weekend’s 3-0 win over Deportivo was just the latest display of Atleti’s new and improved goal scoring prowess. Valencia and Real Sociedad are the two other victims in the month of March.

Prior to the first-leg, the last seven games Atleti played across all fixtures saw them only score more than one goal, twice. A full turnaround in fortunes have transpired since then. In the past three games, Simeone’s men have scored nine goals.

In addition to Griezmann’s hot form, he’s scored a goal in each of his last four games, Saul Niguez has been shining on the front-foot. The 21 year-old has scored two goals in his past three games, and is looking like a dynamic box-to-box midfielder as of late.

The recent resurgence in scoring surely has los Colchoneros buzzing with confidence, and their defense hasn’t faltered one bit either, they’ve had four clean sheets in their last five matches.

Furthermore, they have a killer home record in UCL competitions, their last 13 Champions League results at the Vicente Calderon have seen them keep 11 clean sheets, according to Opta stats.

Atletico Madrid Possible XI – Jan Oblak; Juanfran, José Gimenez, Diego Godin, Filipe Luis; Koke, Saul, Gabi, Yannick Carrasco; Antoine Griezmann, Luciano Vietto.

Key Players – 

  • Juanfran – The right-back has been one of the most consistent players down his flank all season, and tomorrow, given Atleti’s defensive stability, he should be looking to make his mark on the scoresheet. He’s a two-way threat and offers great creative looks from the right side.
  • Saul Niguez – Saul is on the radar of many clubs, and now more than ever. Once a tactically and athletically sound midfielder starts to score, the big clubs take notice. As for the time being, he’s here to stay and while stepping up in La Liga is great, if Griezmann goes quiet on Tuesday, perhaps the young Spaniard can head in a goal or two.


Latest Run of Form Through All Competitions – W-D-W-W-D (Furthest right being most recent.)

Phillip Cocu’s squad is just barely leading the Eredivisie pack and although they didn’t lose on Saturday to Heerenveen, they were lucky second-place Ajax drew and dropped points.

PSV don’t shy away from playing intense, possesion-based football but don’t be surprised if Cocu tries to play a bit more conservatively at the Vicente Calderon. PSV was also helped by their goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet when they went shorthanded at home, and Cocu will be looking for his keeper to be at his best if the going gets rough in Spain.

Injury and suspension will be an issue to for the Dutch side, as Gaston Pereiro was red carded last time around, and Andres Guardado and Maxime Lestienne are having leg complications. However, Cocu will have the option to put in his go-to striker Luuk de Jong, who will be returning to the lineup after suspension.

PSV Possible XI – Jeroen Zoet; Santiago Arias, Jeffrey Bruma, Hector Moreno,Jetro Willems; Marco van Ginkel, Davy Propper, Andres Guardado; Luciano Narsingh, Jurgen Locadia, Luuk de Jong.

Key Player – 

  • Luuk de Jong – The Switzerland native is the leading scorer on the squad with 19 goals and will be looking to make his mark on a team that was lacking extra decisiveness in Atleti’s defensive half. The 25 year-old is entering the prime of his career and will be fired up to upset the Spanish hosts.

  • Sanil

    Really well written Carlo! I agree Saúl as one of our men to watch! Vamos Atleti!

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Your possible starting XI for Atleti are only 10 players, Carlo . You probably forgot Saul .
    But according to Spanish media, it’s almost sure that Augusto will start while Carrasco will be on the bench .

    And in a game where we must score I really don’t agree with that, nor do I agree with dropping an attacking option like Oliver out of the list .

  • Carlo Valladares

    Augusto doesn’t bother me, Simeone wants players out on the pitch who will rarely make pressing/defensive errors. UCL is still UCL, and PSV will elevate their play.

    Oliver could come in, but yeah, as a starter it would be nice to have him. Correa over Vietto for me, but tactically, Simeone wouldn’t agree.

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    Again : Oliver didn’t make the list .

  • Ahmad Hossainy

    I said before that I don’t think the 9 goals against Sociedad, Valencia & Depor mean that our scoring problems are over, because those 3 teams were too inferior to us, Saul scored his goal against Depor while 3 defenders where closer to the ball but they didn’t bother to do anything, they just stood up and watched like the fans !
    I don’t think PSV will be like that .
    But if we crushed them and achieved a comfortable win as many people think and I looked like an idiot, trust me, I will be very happy, and I will admit that I’m an idiot .

    This is the most important game of the season, not only because UCL is our last chance to win a title this season, but also for the money, qualifying to the 1/4 finals tonight will give us 6 million, and will make us play at least one more UCL game at the Calderon and earn around 2 million from tickets . And if we made it to the semis we will earn another 7 million and will play one more game, and so on .

    I’m not asking or expecting Atleti to win the CL this season, although we do have our chances, and I think they are bigger than the chances of Man City despite the quarter billion they spent on players this season alone, and bigger than the chances of Real Madrid with their overrated “superstars” and their first-timer coach, but Barca & Bayern are very strong, and PSG have a great squad and a good coach, and they have the advantage of officially winning the league (how ridiculous is that by the way !)
    On the other hand, there will not be any excuse if we didn’t pass through tonight, let me put it this way : before the 1st leg I read this headline in AS :
    ” The salary of Simeone is 6 million euros per season, while the salary of Cocu is 500.000 euros per season ” .
    That sums up the huge difference between Atleti & PSV right now .

  • AaX

    We’d win but would not by ‘crushing’ PSV. But in a definitive one nevertheless. Just don’t get ahead of ourselves yet. I am sure they PSV is studying our game against Benfica here before and I think Simeone is aware of that. Whatever it is lets defend hard and attack harder than before. Maybe Tonight we could demonstrate that and succeed.

    Vamos ATLETI !!