Atletico Madrid will look to topple Borussia Dortmund to top spot in Group A standings as they host AS Monaco at Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday.
It has been a disappointing campaign for AS Monaco so far, having secured just one point in four UEFA Champions League matches with absolutely no chance of qualifying to the next round. But, they will fight for pride when they travel to the Spanish capital to face Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
In addition, the French giants will also have an opportunity to topple Club Brugge to third place ahead of the final matchday, should they manage to collect all three points against Los Rojiblancos this week.
That being said, the odds certainly don’t favour Monaco, who have won only one of their last 17 matches in all competitions, which is astonishing given the fact that they were expected to pose a strong challenge for the Ligue 1 title at the start of the season.
Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, have also had a topsy-turvy campaign so far with just 24 points collected from a possible 39 in La Liga. But, Los Colchoneros have performed really well in recent games, notably securing a 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund in their last UEFA Champions League fixture.
However, coach Diego Simeone will surely be disappointed after conceding a late equaliser against FC Barcelona last weekend. The Hard Tackle now takes a look at both sides ahead of their crucial UEFA Champions League encounter on Wednesday.
Tactics & Team News
Diego Godin’s absence will be a huge blow for Atletico Madrid as the Uruguayan international is still suffering from a muscle injury. Other key defenders in Juanfran and Jose Gimenez are also likely to be ruled out on Wednesday while Diego Costa remains doubtful.
As a result, Simeone should deploy Santiago Arias in Juanfran’s stead in the right-back slot while Filipe Luis will continue to feature on the opposite flank. Godin and Gimenez’s injury, on the other hand, will mean that both Stefan Savic and Lucas Hernandez should start at the heart of the Atletico Madrid defence.
In midfield, Rodri has been a key figure for Atleti this season. He will once again play a crucial role alongside Koke in the middle of the park. Elsewhere, Saul Niguez and Thomas Lemar will be deployed as wide midfielders, though both of them are expected to operate narrowly due to Atletico’s coherent pressing.
Therefore, all four midfielders will complement one another in pressing whilst operating in a free-flowing formation during the attacking stances.
Star striker Diego Costa is expected to shake off his knock and feature alongside Antoine Griezmann up ahead in attack. While Griezmann will look to unsettle the susceptible Monaco defence with his clever runs and dynamic movements, Costa’s physical presence will cause further trouble for Thierry Henry’s men.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Oblak; Arias, Savic, Hernandez, Luis; Lemar, Rodri, Koke, Niguez; Griezmann, Costa
Much like the hosts, AS Monaco will also miss out on the services of a crucial defender in the form of Kamil Glik. The Polish international is suffering from torn abductor muscle and will likely be replaced by 17-year-old Benoit Badiashile, indicating Monaco’s lack of depth in the defensive department.
New signing Ronael-Pierre Gabriel has emerged as a key defender for Monaco this season. He will most likely retain his place as the right-back while Benjamin Henrichs will likely be deployed on the opposite flank.
Youri Tielemans is expected to be starting alongside Youssef Ait Bennasser in Monaco’s midfield pivot. The Belgian’s shooting prowess coupled with his excellent ball-distribution will be crucial against Atletico Madrid’s intensive pressing.
On paper, Monaco have enough firepower to overpower Los Rojiblancos, but a host of their key players including Stevan Jovetic and Rony Lopes are injured while rest of them have terribly underperformed this season. And, coach Henry will be hoping to change that this week.
18-year-old Sofiane Diop will likely deputise for the injured Lopes in the lone attacking midfield position while Aleksandr Golovin and Nacer Chadli will support him from wider positions. All three of them will look to feed main striker Radamel Falcao, who scored the winner against SM Caen last weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Benaglio; Gabriel, Jemerson, Badiashile, Henrichs; Tielemans, Bennasser; Golovin, Diop, Chadli; Falcao
- AS Monaco have struggled to find a spark in the attack, of late, scoring just one goal in their last four matches in all competitions.
- Atletico Madrid are unbeaten in their last six matches in all competitions, with their last defeat coming against Borussia Dortmund at the end of last month.
- Since their defeat to Dortmund, the hosts have conceded only four goals. Monaco lost against Club Brugge by the same margin in their last UEFA Champions League encounter.
- AS Monaco have won just one of their four away Champions League games against Spanish sides (L3), though it was their most recent such visit (5-0 vs Deportivo in December 2004). But, their overall record on the road lately is poor, with the principality club winless in their last six outings (D3 L3).
- Atletico Madrid have lost just one of their last 16 UEFA Champions League matches at home (1-2 vs Chelsea in September 2017), winning their last three.
Player to Watch
Saul has often emerged as the key player for Atletico Madrid at the grandest stage and this season has been no exception. The Spaniard was instrumental in Atleti’s impressive 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund earlier this month and will look to maintain his excellent form in the Champions League this week.
As stated earlier, the Spaniard is likely to be deployed in his preferred wide midfield position, where he will look to cut-inside and drift into central areas in an attempt to create more chances for his team. His sublime qualities on the ball fused with his exceptional shooting prowess make him one of the players worth keeping an eye out for this week.
Atletico Madrid 2-0 AS Monaco
We can expect an easy win for Atletico Madrid in this one simply due to their strong form coming into the game. Although they blew a slender one-goal lead against Barcelona in their last outing, Los Rojiblancos’ defensive solidity coupled with Monaco’s problems all across the pitch point towards a relatively comfortable evening for Diego Simeone’s men.