'Quite inconsistent' - What to make of Atletico Madrid ahead of Manchester United clash - Inside Europe
Which Atletico Madrid will show up for their Champions League meeting with Manchester United on Wednesday? The Atletico that lost four of six matches recently, or the side that easily beat Osasuna 3-0 this weekend and looked back to their best? We got in touch with Eurosport Spain's Felix Martin to see what's going on with Diego Simeone's team.
Trying to gauge the form of Atletico Madrid is a bit of a guessing game ahead of their crucial Champions League round-of-16 tie with Manchester United.
Diego Simeone's side looked a shadow of their normal self when losing four of six games in all competitions before bouncing back with a resounding 3-0 win over Osasuna this weekend where they looked back to their best.
So which version of Atletico will show up for Wednesday's first leg at the Wanda Metropolitano? And with the Spanish league title already out of reach for the defending champions, what can we expect from Atletico in the Champions League?
We asked Felix Martin of Eurosport Spain to explain what's going on with Simeone's team at the moment.
WHAT SHOULD WE MAKE OF ATLETICO'S RECENT STRUGGLES?
Having won the Spanish league title last year, Atletico are now fifth in the table and struggling just to get into the Champions League places for next season. They also lost in both the Spanish Super Cup and Copa del Rey in January, and fell to a humiliating home defeat to last-placed Levante last week. So what is going on?
"Atleti's season has been quite inconsistent so far, so it isn't easy to predict how they are at the moment," says Martin. "But I'm not sure their performances in La Liga will carry over to the Champions League since we all know that it is completely different competition and the team will be very motivated. To me, Atlético Madrid has a serious chance to be in the quarterfinals because from what I've seen of Manchester United this season, they've been quite inconsistent as well.
Atlético Madrid are one of the hardest teams to beat over 180 minutes because of the intensity of their game and how hard it is to beat them when they play at home.
"You can expect a great Champions League match, a great football night and the supporters to be cheering a lot in Wanda Metropolitano."
Luis Suárez celebra un gol en el Osasuna-Atlético.
Atletico have conceded 34 goals in 25 league games so far, which by Simeone's standards is almost shocking. Goalkeeper Jan Oblak has come under a lot of fire recently, but do Atletico's problems run deeper than that? Has the ultra defensive-minded Simeone suddenly changed his tactics, or have the team just lost their way?
"To me Atleti's style remains always the same," Martin said. "Being very intense and defending very resolutely. The thing is that their defence this year is not at their best. Oblak is not performing at his best level, and the back four is struggling not to concede goals every week. So yes, that's probably their main weakness this year."
Diego Pablo Simeone of Atletico Madrid, Rodrigo De Paul of Atletico Madrid, Luis Suarez of Atletico Madrid during the La Liga Santander match between Atletico Madrid v Osasuna at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on November 20, 2021
Image credit: Getty Images
WHO WILL BE THE DANGER MAN FOR ATLETICO?
"Their attacking duo, of course. Luis Suárez and Joao Félix both scored against Osasuna and you can be sure they will be very motivated in a Champions League match. As a former Liverpool player, I'm sure Suárez would love to score against his old rival United."