Tough Atletico test for Manchester City
Having already seen off one Manchester-based outfit this season, Atletico Madrid travel to the Etihad to face Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tonight.
Pep Guardiola’s side made it past Sporting Lisbon 5-0 on aggregate in the last 16, while the La Liga champions edged past the Red Devils 2-1 to make it to the quarters.
Supporters certainly got their money’s worth when Man City made the journey to the Estadio Jose Alvalade for the first leg of their last-16 tie with Sporting, as Bernardo Silva (2), Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling put the tie to bed before it had even begun.
The second leg was a far duller affair by contrast, but City only needed to avoid the most calamitous collapse to edge closer to a coveted Champions League crown, and a goalless draw gave them a safe passage into the last eight of Europe’s elite competition.
The Champions League has not been Guardiola’s bread and butter at the Etihad, and this season’s Premier League is not either, with City briefly being knocked off top spot by Liverpool earlier on Saturday before quickly usurping the Reds as Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne struck in a 2-0 success at Burnley.
City’s top-of-the-table showdown with Jurgen Klopp’s men on April 10 is fast approaching, but the Champions League still eludes the Premier League champions, who were knocked out in the quarter-finals three years running before collecting their runners-up medals in 2021.
The restless Etihad faithful surely cannot envisage the last-eight curse striking again this time around, but their side have strung together a seven-game unbeaten run in all tournaments and had won nine in a row at home in the Champions League before taking it easy against Sporting.
Being held to a 1-1 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano – even with the away goals rule now abolished – did not set Atletico up well for a trip to Old Trafford, but Manchester United had no answer to a typically gritty Diego Simeone performance on their own turf.
A simple header from an unlikely source in Renan Lodi was all that was required for Atletico to make it through to the last eight, with Simeone immediately dashing down the tunnel at the full-time whistle and being pelted by objects from the crowd for his troubles.
The less said about Atletico’s futile La Liga title defence the better, but the reigning Spanish champions have hit a rich vein of form at just the right time, with a 4-1 league success over Alaves on Saturday night representing their sixth triumph in a row across all competitions.
Victory at Old Trafford also marked the third of four successive away wins for Simeone’s reinvigorated side, who have not made it past the quarter-finals of this competition since the 2016-17 season and went down to English opposition in Chelsea without making the net ripple last year.
Today’s first leg will mark the first-ever competitive meeting between Man City and Atletico, but Guardiola and Simeone have locked horns as managers three times, with the latter getting the better of his counterpart’s Bayern Munich side in the 2015-16 Champions League.
Luis Suarez came off the bench to bag a 15-minute brace against Alaves and has given Simeone food for thought in the final third, but Joao Felix and Antoine Griezmann could continue their partnership for the time being. – Sportsmail
Today’s Champions League fixtures
Benfica v Liverpool
Man City v Atletico Madrid