A crunch clash at the Wanda Metropolitano awaits Atletico Madrid and AC Milan, who have to win this fixture to keep their chances of progression alive.

Diego Simeone was hoping for a tight contest earlier this month when Atletico Madrid travelled to Anfield. However, Liverpool’s superiority was all too apparent and too hot for the Rojiblancos to deal with. Goals from Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane were enough for the Merseysiders to reach the next stages of the competition.

As for Atletico, the result put them in a tight spot in their quest to reach the next phase, pushing them into the third spot as Porto went ahead in second. Simeone knows the importance of the clash against AC Milan on Wednesday, where his team needs to win and hope Liverpool crush the Portuguese side when they meet each other at Anfield.

Over the weekend, the Rojiblancos secured a narrow victory over Osasuna, with Felipe’s strike settling the tie. Currently in fourth place in La Liga, they will now shift focus towards securing a spot in the knockout phase of the Champions League.

Their visitors, AC Milan have endured a difficult time since returning to the Champions League after years out. Stefano Pioli has been left puzzled by his side’s inability to replicate their domestic form onto the European stage this season.

Milan are yet to win a game in the  Champions League, and despite having put in some encouraging performances, they only have a single point to show for their cause. Their draw against Porto certainly keeps them in the hunt for the second spot, as a victory in Madrid could let them open the doors for all three teams to stake a chance over qualifying.

However, their weekend clash against Fiorentina was reminiscent of their loss against Atletico in the reverse fixture, when Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez struck late to secure a win. Their incredible unbeaten run in Serie A this season was ended by La Viola, with Dusan Vlahovic proving the villain in the clash.

Team News & Tactics

Atletico Madrid

Simeone has three important absentees for this clash, starting with the weekend’s goalscorer Felipe who remains suspended due to a red card. Joao Felix and Kieran Trippier are the others who are out with injuries. The Argentine will make minor, essential changes to ensure they get a much-needed win.

Geoffrey Kondogbia could come into central midfield as Simeone might prefer a double pivot instead of just a single holding midfielder. Koke will play alongside the Frenchman in the central area, screening the backline.

In recent weeks, Simeone has ditched his usual back-three in favour of a more robust back four. Jose Maria Gimenez will take Felipe’s place in central defence with Stefan Savic as his partner at the heart of the defence. Mario Hermoso and Sime Vrsaljko will cover the full-back positions in this clash.

Angel Correa and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco will take up the wide attacking positions, with Thomas Lemar squeezed in between them in the attacking midfield zone. Luis Suarez, who has been in and out of the team in recent weeks, will find himself on the bench as Simeone seemingly prefers Antoine Griezmann to lead the line.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Oblak; Vrsaljko, Savic, Gimenez, Hermoso; Kondogbia, Koke; Correa, Lemar, Carrasco; Griezmann

AC Milan

Milan boss Stefano Pioli will have to deal with plenty more absentees than Simeone for this game. As many as six first-teamers are absent for the trip to Madrid. Ante Rebic, Mike Maignan, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Davide Calabria, Samu Castillejo and Fikayo Tomori are all ruled out.

Ciprian Tatarusanu will keep his place in goal with Maignan still on the sidelines. Alessio Romagnoli will take his place in central defence alongside Simon Kjaer in the absence of Tomori. Meanwhile, Theo Hernandez should slot in at left-back while Pierre Kululu should deputise in the troubled right-back area in Calabria’s absence.

A double midfield pivot of trusted stars Sandro Tonali and Ismael Bennacer should be preferred to marshall the area. Franck Kessie must be content with a place on the bench. The Ivorian could prove a useful option in the second half.

Alexis Saelemaekers should be rewarded for his hard-working performances with a place on the right side of the attack, while Rafael Leao should start on the left. Rade Krunic should be slot in behind the central striker. Despite scoring a brace at the weekend, Zlatan Ibrahimovic might find it hard to play two games in quick succession, meaning a start for Olivier Giroud beckons.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Kalulu, Romagnoli, Kjaer, Hernandez; Bennacer, Tonali; Saelemaekers, Krunic, Leao; Giroud

Key Stats

  • Atletico Madrid have won their last three matches against AC Milan in all competitions.
  • Atletico Madrid have never lost three straight games in the Champions League.
  • AC Milan’s weekend loss against Fiorentina ended their unbeaten start to their domestic campaign.
  • AC Milan have failed to win their last seven games in the Champions League.
  • Antoine Griezmann has scored in each of his last two Champions League appearances for Atletico Madrid (three goals).

Player to Watch

Antoine Griezmann

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After a slow start to life back at the Wanda Metropolitano, Griezmann has taken it upon himself to improve drastically in recent weeks. One of Simeone’s most important lieutenants, the Frenchman has slowly turned up at games with his old vigour that made him such a huge success in the Spanish capital.

Against AC Milan, he will be lining to lead the line in the club’s most important game of the season so far. The French star will need to show his best form yet and help his side progress to the next round, with a goalscoring display.

Prediction

Atletico Madrid 1-0 AC Milan

Milan are likely to struggle in the Champions League once more when they face Atletico Madrid in the Spanish capital. It’s not to say the Rossoneri do not have the sufficient quality to match that of the Rojiblancos, but they have shown a lack of big-stage experience in Europe this season.

After losing their unbeaten status in Serie A this weekend, confidence will have taken a further hit and Pioli’s men could find it hard to break down a resilient Atletico side. Expect a tough victory for the home team with the narrowest of scorelines.

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