AC Milan take on Spanish champions Atletico Madrid in their first UEFA Champions League game at San Siro in seven years.
Italian giants AC Milan will welcome Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid in whats is the club’s first Champions League home tie since 2014.
Incidentally, Milan’s last two matches in the competition came against the same opponents in the 2013/14 season in the first knockout stage. The Spaniards won 1-0 at the San Siro before sweeping their opponents 4-1 back in Madrid.
Both teams are currently in the midst of curious seasons and will be aiming to take all three points on the night. Milan are flying high in Serie A and have won five of their first six games in the league. Atletico Madrid, however are in the midst of a slump and succumbed to a loss at Deportivo Alaves at the weekend.
Stefano Pioli’s side nearly escaped with a point in their Champions League opener against Liverpool at Anfield. The Reds, however, came through in the end. The 3-2 scoreline in Liverpool’s favour largely flattered the Italians who would have taken a hiding had Jurgen Klopp’s side taken their chances.
It did, however, remind them of the level they are at now and will need to step up against Atletico on Tuesday night. The Spaniards may not possess the fast-flowing attack of Liverpool but are formidable opponents who are difficult to break down.
Milan will not just have to step up their ability on the ball but also be ready for a physical contest that will take no prisoners. The Rossoneri could not have asked for a tougher return to Europe’s top table. A win on the night would send out a real statement and also boost their chances of making the last 16.
— AC Milan (@acmilan) September 26, 2021
Atletico and Porto drew their opening game of the competition earlier this month. Another draw coupled with a win for Liverpool in Portugal could spell trouble for the Spanish champions in the competition. The last thing Diego Simeone will want is for his side to be embroiled in a scrap for a top-two spot.
Group B is clearly this season’s group of death and every point will matter come matchday six. The Milan Atletico clash promises to be an intriguing one and a win for either side could prove pivotal. We now take a look at how both sides could line up on the night and how they may look to outmanoeuvre the other.
Team News & Tactics
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 25, 2021
Ace striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues to recover from his injury. However, the game against Atletico appears to have come too soon for him to feature. The Italians will also be without Tiemoue Bakayoko, Rade Krunic, and Alessandro Florenzi who are all still injured. Pioli’s men left it late against Spezia at the weekend with a number of players impressing off the bench.
This could force the Italian to tinker with his lineup for the game against Simeone’s men. Milan have started games well in recent weeks and will hope to land a blow to the Atletico early on. Mike Maignan was impressive against Liverpool and will start in goal for the Rossoneri. The return of Simon Kjaer will be an added boost and the Dane could go straight into the lineup alongside Fikayo Tomori.
Kjaer and Tomori have built up a good rapport and will prove formidable opponents for the Atletico attack. Flanked by Davide Calabria and Theo Hernandez, the Milan backline certainly packs a punch.
Daniel Maldini scored his first goal for Milan on his debut against Spezia. The youngster, however, could be dropped to the bench in favour of Spanish international Brahim Diaz. Rafael Leao was Milan’s standout player at the weekend and could replace the disappointing Ante Rebic on the left. With an in-form Alexis Saelemaekers occupying the other flank, there are enough players to provide service to Olivier Giroud who could start upfront.
Ismael Bennacer was another player who impressed off the bench against Spezia and could partner Franck Kessie in midfield. The duo’s performance on the night could help decide who wins the midfield battle and eventually the tie.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori, Hernandez; Kessie, Bennacer ; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Leao; Giroud
Atletico Madrid have endured a difficult start to the season and have struggled to see off their opponents. They travel to the San Siro following a demoralizing defeat to minnows Deportivo Alaves.
Slovenian goalkeeper Jan Oblak practically picks himself for the game. Steven Safic’s suspension could see Uruguayan international Jose Gimenez return to the lineup. Alongside Felipe and Mario Hermoso, he could form the bedrock of the Atletico defence.
Kieran Trippier and Yannick Carrasco will function on the flanks, also serving as full-backs when defending. Simeone’s 3-5-2 formation will help the Rojiblancos keep their structure whether it be going forward or being forced back to defend.
All focus ➡️ Champions League pic.twitter.com/TArW8Z9gRI
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) September 26, 2021
The midfield trio of Diego Llorente, Koke and Rodrigo De Paul will be tasked with winning the ball back in midfield and launching a counter of their own. The onus to kickstart attacks from the centre will rest largely on the shoulders of the Argentine star.
Koke was on the bench against Alaves and his return will give Simeone the engine he needs in the middle of the park. The solidity offered by Llorente, Koke and De Paul will give Carrasco and Trippier the license to bomb forward.
Atleti also look set to recall Joao Felix who missed the weekend’s game due to a suspension. Alongside Luis Suarez, the young Portuguese star will be tasked with ending Atletico’s poor form upfront. Having Antoine Griezmann available on the bench will hand Simeone options in the second half. French international Thomas Lemar remains Atletrico’s lone player out injured.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Oblak; Gimenez, Felipe, Hermoso; Trippier, Llorente, Koke, De Paul, Carrasco; Suarez, Felix
- AC Milan have not won a game in the UEFA Champions League since their 3-0 win against Celtic at Celtic Park on November 2013. The last home win in the competition comes against the same opponents on September 18 2013.
- Atletico Madrid are going through a lean streak and have failed to score any goals in their last three UEFA Champions League games.
- Despite Atletico being regulars in the competition, it is Milan who are the more successful side. The Italians have won the European Cup Champions League seven times, a feat bettered by only Real Madrid.
- AC Milan and Atletico have faced off three times in their history. Atletico have won twice while Milan have got the better of their opponents once.
- Atletico have won just one of their last five games on Italian soil against Serie A teams. It came against Milan in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League knockout stage round of 16, second leg. Diego Costa was the goalscoring hero that night.
Player to watch
El Pistelero was the driving force behind Atletico’s La Liga title triumph last season. The Uruguayan, however, is not getting any younger and it has now begun to show. He has scored just thrice in eight games this season and will hope to make up for his poor outing against Alaves.
A technically adept player who is not afraid to get his hands dirty, the 34-year-old will be a handful for Kjaer and Tomori to marshall. Tomori, for all his potential, could find his hands full if he goes up one vs one against Suarez. The onus will be on Kjaer to prevent that from happening and ensuring the Uruguayan does not get back to his old tricks. A clinical player, one chance is all Suarez may need to settle the tie on the night.
AC Milan 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Milan will look to get off to a fast start while Atletico will do what they do best-soak up the pressure. Pioli’s side is promising and continues to develop. But the game against Liverpool showed they have ways to get before they can challenge Europe’s elite.
Atletico have struggled for goals this season and it could more of the same in Italy. Neither team will be keen to drop points, paving the way for a guarded affair. There is every chance that it could end alls square at the San Siro come Tuesday night.