Atletico Madrid will be hoping to maintain their winning momentum when they take on FC Porto at Wanda Metropolitano on Tuesday.

Atletico Madrid kick-start their UEFA Champions League campaign on Wednesday as they lock horns with FC Porto at Wanda Metropolitano. The reigning Spanish champions will be determined to seal a victory that would give them an early headstart heading into Matchday 2.

Diego Simeone’s men have been unfortunately drafted in a tough Group B that features the likes of Liverpool and AC Milan, who face off in the other contest at Anfield. A win could thus be paramount if Atletico are to have any hopes of getting through to the knockout stages.

Los Colchoneros have started their league campaign on a relatively positive note, with ten points collected in first four matches. Their most recent league affair saw them score a 99th-minute winner against Espanyol to seal all three points and remain in the top three in the league table.

For FC Porto, things haven’t been as consistent, with the Portuguese giants dropping four points from their five league matches so far. They did face off reigning champions Sporting recently, drawing the game 1-1. They are currently fourth in the embryonic Liga Primeira table.

The two teams have an even record when it comes to head to head encounters in the UEFA Champions League, with both of them securing two wins each in six matches, with the remaining two ending in a draw.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at both these sides ahead of their much-awaited Champions League encounter at Wanda Metropolitano this midweek.

Team News & Tactics

Atletico Madrid

Diego Simeone was boosted by the timely return of Luis Suarez on the weekend, with the forward even starting against Espanyol. He wasn’t much effective but remains a favourite to spearhead the attack for Atletico Madrid, alongside Angel Correa.

It could mean Antoine Griezmann settling for a place on the bench alongside Joao Felix, though they are both options in the second half, especially if the hosts find any difficulties breaching the lines of the Porto defence.

In the creative unit, Marcos Llorente remains a guaranteed starter, but this time around, he is likely to be partnered by Thomas Lemar, who starred in the win over Espanyol. These two should form the three-man Atletico midfield, with captain Koke operating in a deeper to orchestrate the play.

Elsewhere, in the second line of press, Kieran Trippier and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco remain favourites to occupy the wingback slots. Renan Lodi is another option, but given the way Carrasco has performed, the Brazilian will have to settle for a place on the bench on this one.

Defensively, Atletico Madrid have no injury concerns, but they are without Stefan Savic. The defender is suspended after having picked up a red card against Chelsea last season.

Savic’s absence means Jose Gimenez could be set for a return to the starting eleven, as he looks to marshal Atletico’s three-man backline, consisting of him Felipe and Mario Hermoso. They will be keen on providing protection for Jan Oblak in goal after a rather disappointing effort on the weekend against Espanyol.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Oblak; Gimenez, Felipe, Hermoso; Trippier, Llorente, Koke, Lemar, Carrasco; Correa, Suarez

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FC Porto

FC Porto made quite an impression in the Champions League last season with their defensive rigidity. Their coach Sergio Conceicao has expertly used the 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 setup to maximise the potential of his team. This time around, he could stick to a 4-4-2 as Porto look to attain a point against Atletico.

Pepe remains a guaranteed starter, as the former Champions League winner with Real Madrid look to marshal the four-man backline consisting of him and his central defensive partner Chancel Mbemba, as well as the two fullbacks in Joao Mario and Ivan Marcano.

All of them are expected to operate in a narrow shape, in order to offer minimal space for the Atletico Madrid forwards and protect Diogo Costa in goal. The young goalkeeper is actually deputising for the injured Marchesin.

With Porto likely to stick to a 4-4-2, the midfield is going to play an important role. It will be interesting to see how Conceicao utilises the two wide midfielders in Otavio and Luis Diaz. Both of them are dynamic attackers but may have to provide the defensive work, up against Atletico’s dangerous wide players in Trippier, Carrasco and even Llorente, who like to drift out on the right hand side.

Mateus Uribe and Sergio Oliveira are otherwise likely to form the double-pivot, with the latter set to be given more freedom going forward and provide the creativity for the two centre forwards in Jesus Corona and Mehdi Taremi.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Costa; Mario, Pepe, Mbemba, Marcano; Otavio, Uribe, Oliveira, Diaz; Corona, Taremi

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Key Stats

  • This will be the ninth meeting between Atletico Madrid and FC Porto in European competition, and the first since they faced each other in the UEFA Champions League group stage in 2013/14. Atletico have won three of the previous eight, with Porto winning two.
  • Atletico Madrid and FC Porto have been drawn in the same Champions League group on two previous occasions, prior to this season. Porto won both games in the 2009/10 campaign before Atletico won home and away in 2013/14.
  • This will be FC Porto’s first meeting with Spanish opponents in the Champions League since 2014/15, when they won both games against Athletic Club in the group stage. In their European Cup/UEFA Champions League history, however, the Dragons have only won 29% of their games against Spanish opposition.
  • Atletico Madrid have only lost two of their previous 11 home games against Portuguese opponents in European competition – 0-3 vs FC Porto in December 2009 and 1-2 vs Benfica in September 2015.
  • Since Diego Simeone’s first season as a manager in the UEFA Champions League (2013/14), the Argentine has won 41 of his 79 games in the competition. The only manager with more victories in the Champions League in this period is Pep Guardiola (56).

Player to Watch

Thomas Lemar

Atletico hope to use Arsenal's interest in Lemar to sign Lacazette (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Ready to prove doubters wrong. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Amid all the hype around Antoine Griezmann, the most important player for Atletico Madrid in this game could be Thomas Lemar. Formerly of AS Monaco, the Frenchman didn’t have a great start to his career in Madrid, but lately, he is establishing himself as one of the club’s main creators and is set for a more prominent role in the team after the exit of Saul Niguez.

Lemar starred in the weekend game against Espanyol, scoring the late winner and producing a terrific second-half cameo. He is, therefore, in full flow heading into this game as Atleti look to take Porto by storm.

The visitors will certainly need to be careful of the attacker’s link-up play and ability to drift past players in the final third. Put simply, it will be imperative for Conceicao’s men to put a stop to Lemar this midweek if they are to have any chances of sealing a point in this game.

Prediction

Atletico Madrid 2-1 FC Porto

Atletico Madrid are exceptionally strong at home and have done well to secure ten points in the opening four league matches. However, their defence has appeared a bit sloppy recently, so it won’t be surprising to see them concede at least a goal against Porto, who are certainly not an opposition to be taken lightly.

Do Dragao can be very resilient defensively, boasting an equally effective counter-attacking prowess. However, it would be fair to expect Atleti to breach past their defences especially given their creative firepower. Lemar will likely be a key player for them as they look to secure all three points this midweek.

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