Atletico Madrid and Porto take on each other in the standout fixture on matchday six of the UEFA Champions League in Group B with qualification on the line.

Atletico Madrid and FC Porto will take on each other in the standout fixture of the UEFA Champions League Group B matchday six.

Touted as the group of death, it has been a breeze for Liverpool, who can afford to play a weakened team against AC Milan at the San Siro. This pretty much hands the Rossoneri an early advantage. At the same time, it also increases pressure upon both Atletico and Porto to get all three points on the night. The Portuguese giants are currently second in the group and can guarantee a spot in the Last-16 with a win.

Diego Simeone’s side, however, have struggled this season and are currently bottom of the group. While a win might not be enough for them to qualify, it does give them more than a glimmer of hope. It promises to be an excellent game with both sides going for nothing less than all three points.

With their home form letting them down, Simeone will hope that his side can take advantage of playing away to express themselves more freely. Having the pressure off could finally see his side hit their stride in Europe this season. However, they will have to step up on Tuesday and ensure that they channel the skills that won them the La Liga title last season.

The reverse fixture ended in a drab draw, but this could very well prove to be winner-takes-all at the Estadio do Dragao. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.

Team News & Tactics

Porto

Of the three teams looking to join Liverpool in the round of 16, it is Porto who have their destiny in their own hands. The Portuguese giants will need to win on the night to guarantee themselves a spot in the next round. They will, however, have to do so without Francisco Conceicao and Ivan Marcano, who are both out injured.

Sergio Conceicao looks set to deploy his side in a classic 4-4-2 formation. Diogo Costa looks set to start in goal with a flat back four of Joao Mario, Pepe, Chancel Mbemba and Zaidu Sanusi ahead of him.

After picking up yet another booking, Mateus Uribe is suspended for the game and looks set to be replaced by former Liverpool man Marko Grujic. He will partner Sergio Oliveira in the middle of the park and will be tasked with getting the better of Rodrigo De Paul and Koke.

Luiz Diaz and Otavio look set to be deployed on the flanks and will be charged with providing width going forward. Porto have a formidable front two in Mehdi Taremi and Evanilson. With Atletico’s backline depleted, the duo should make life difficult for Mario Hermoso & co. The Atletico ace has shown himself susceptible to mistakes, and Porto could very well take advantage of that.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Costa; Mario, Pepe, Mbemba, Sanusi; Diaz, Grujic, Oliveira, Itavio; Evanilson, Taremi

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Atletico Madrid

Diego Simeone will have his work cut out with three of his first-choice defenders all out injured. Kieran Trippier, Jose Gimenez and Stefan Savic have all been ruled out of the do-or0die clash in Portugal for the Rojiblancos. Mario Hermoso is the only fit senior centre-back available, and he will need to play the role of the defensive leader in a makeshift backline.

Jan Oblak is a sure starter but will need to contend with a makeshift pairing of Hermoso and Geoffrey Kondogbia ahead of him in defence. The Slovenian endured a torrid time against Mallorca at the weekend when he was left exposed by his rearguard for both of the visitors’ goals. Porto are a better team and will surely punish such mistakes.

Simeone looks set to deploy a 4-4-2 system, given his options for the night. Marcos Llorente will start at right-back, with Renan Lodi occupying the other flank. The onus to protect the back four will lie with Koke, who will have to mop up in midfield. Just how well the skipper performs on the night could determine his team’s fate.

Rodrigo De Paul endured a horror show against Mallorca and was taken off in the second half at the weekend. The Argentine will need to step up and show himself to be the man against Porto. He will need to get his creative juices flowing and fashion chances for the Atletico attack. He can not afford to be a passenger anymore.

Thomas Lemar and Yannick Carrasco will start on the wings in support of Antoine Griezmann and Matheus Cunha upfront. Both players impressed at the weekend, and given Luis Suarez’s struggles, they look set to start the game. Atletico do have game-changers on the bench in the form of Joao Felix. With his defence struggling with injuries, it remains to be seen if Simeone will throw caution to the winds and go all guns blazing.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Oblak; Lodi, Hermoso, Kondogbia, Llorente;  Carrasco, De Paul, Koke, Lemar; Griezmann, Cunha

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Key Stats

  • Both teams have faced off against each other nine times in European competitions. Atletico Madrid have won three of the games while Porto have won twice.
  • A win will see Porto qualify for the UEFA Champions League knockout stages for the fifth time in their last five appearances.
  • Atletico have failed to qualify for the last 16 of the UEFA  Champions League only once since Diego Simeone took over.
  • Atletico have failed to score in five of their last seven UEFA Champions League clashes.
  • Atletico Madrid are currently on a three-game losing streak in the UEFA Champions League.

Player to Watch

Koke

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The Spanish international will have to put up a captain’s performance to guide his team to the knockout stages. He has looked tired and off the pace in recent weeks. However, he cannot afford to back down and leave the midfield unattended with so much on the line.

Atletico’s engine in the middle of the park, Koke, will have a big role on the night thanks to the injuries plaguing the Atletico backline. Koke will be expected to provide a protective shield in the centre of the park and help the visitors win the midfield battle. A lot could depend on just how the Spaniard performs to do on the night.

Prediction

Porto 2-1 Atletico Madrid

While both teams need a win, neither have shown intent in this season’s competition. Atletico, in particular, have looked tired and devoid of ideas. An early goal from Porto could set the stage for them to secure a comfortable win on the night. The Spanish champions have better players at their disposal but have largely failed to take the initiative. Faced against the daunting atmosphere of the Dragao, they could find themselves falling short of the required performance.

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