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 AtleticoFans.com looks to identify each team’s recent form, their key players, their probable starting players and more.
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.
Saúl Ñíguez: Has made more tackles (202) than any other player aged 21 and under in the last 3 La Liga seasons; Aymeric Laporte second (189)
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) March 14, 2016
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.
— Atleti English (@atletienglish) March 14, 2016
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.
4 – Saúl Ñíguez has scored four headed goals this season, more than any other @atletienglish player (all competitions). Anvil.
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 12, 2016
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.
— Atleti English (@atletienglish) March 14, 2016
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.