Estadio Vicente Calderon, Madrid
March 11, 2014; 19:45 BST
Atletico Madrid host AC Milan at Estadio Vicente Calderon tonight in the second leg of their round-of-16 Champions League tie. The scored a vital away goal at San Siro as star striker Diego Costa scored a late winner, and they will look to build on that advantage at home as they look to reach the last eight of this tournament for the first time in 17 years.
Considering Atletico’s brilliant home record, the Italian side have tough task at hand. Los Indios haven’t lost a league game at home this season as they have even managed to keep teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid at bay. On the other hand AC Milan’s away form has been awful this season so far and they have won only two of their last seven away games in all competitions. If Milan manage to pull off a shock result in this game, then they will become only the third team in the history of this competition to overturn a first leg home defeat in the second leg.
Team news and tactics
Diego Simeone doesn’t have too many injury concerns to contain with ahead of this fixture. 19-year-old Javier Manquillo, whose last appearance was in the Copa del Rey loss against Real Madrid last month, is the only player on treatment table currently.
Simeone rested some players in the match against Celta Vigo at the weekend and he is expected to make three changes to the side he fielded in that game. Diego Godin will return to the line-up alongside Miranda in the center of the defence as Toby Alderweireld drops back to the bench. Arda Turan will replace Raul Garcia, while Diego Costa, who served his suspension against Celta Vigo, will start upfront alongside David Villa as Diego drops moves back to his role as a substitute.
The above changes are stated considering Atletico Madrid change to a 4-4-2 formation with Villa and Costa upfront. The former Barcelona striker scored a brace against Celta Vigo and it will make him hard to drop from the starting line-up. Of course this formation means lesser number in the midfield, but this will certainly provide Atletico with more cutting edge upfront.
Simeone has stressed on the importance of controlling the midfield in this game and denying AC Milan any space and this might also mean that he will use an extra body in the midfield and stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation recently. This might force David Villa back to the bench with Raul Garcia starting in a free role behind Costa. Interestingly, the last match Villa and Costa started together Atletico Madrid lost 3-0 to Osasuna.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Courtois (GK); Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Luis; Gabi, Suarez; Koke, Garcia, Turan; Costa
Unlike Diego Simeone, Clarence Seedorf doesn’t have a fully fit squad to choose from ahead of this crucial encounter. Stephan El Shaarawy, whose last appearance in a Milan shirt was in the 0-0 draw against Ajax back in December, continues his spell at the side lines, while Christian Zapate, who returned to the starting line-up at the weekend after an absence of more than five weeks, is doubtful for this game and will undergo a late fitness test.
AC Milan’s new signing Keisuke Honda is eligible to participate for the Italian side in this year’s competition, while they will also miss out on Riccardo Montolivo, who will be serving his suspension. But the big news for Seedorf is the availability of Mario Balotelli. The former Manchester City striker, who was injured after his appearance in the first leg of this tie at San Siro, made his return as a substitute against Udinese this weekend and his expected to start against Atletico tonight.
There are also slight concerns about the fitness of Andrea Poli and Nigel De Jong, but the Dutchman is expected to recover in time and start in the midfield. Seedorf rested a lot of his first team regulars in the 1-0 loss at Udinese and he expected to make as many as eight changes to the line-up he used in that game.
The partnership of Zapata and Philippe Mexes at the center of the defence will be replaced by Daniele Bonera and Adil Rami, while Michael Essiesn and Nigel De Jong replaces Riccardo Montolivo and Sulley Muntari in the pivot ahead of the defence. Honda, who is ineligible, will make way for Andrea Poli on the right with Adel Taarabt replacing Robinho on the left. Kaka will return to the side in place of Valter Birsa, while Mario Balotelli starts upfront. If Poli fails to recover from his knock ahead of this game then Robinho is likely to replace him on the right wing.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Abbiati (GK); Sciglio, Bonera, Rami, Emanuelson; Essien, Jong; Poli, Kaka, Taarabt; Balotelli
Players to watch-out for: Arda Turan (Atletico Madrid); Kaka (AC Milan)
Prediction: Atletico Madrid 1-1 AC Milan