≡ Menu

Champions League Preview: Simeone puts faith in Oblak, Mandzukic

DIEGO-SIMEONEAtletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone confirmed on Monday that Mario Mandzukic and goalkeeper Jan Oblak will start his side’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final, first leg against Real Madrid.

Croatian striker Mandzukic returned to training on Sunday after missing league outings against Real Sociedad and Malaga in the past week due to a recurring ankle injury and is expected to take the place of Fernando Torres alongside Antoine Griezmann in attack.

Oblak, meanwhile, was one of the heros of Atletico’s last 16 win on penalties over Bayer Leverkusen as he replaced the injured Miguel Angel Moya and saved from Hakan Calhanoglu as Los Rojiblancos won the shootout 3-2.

Neither Mandzukic or Oblak were part of the Atletico side that were just a minute away from delivering the club’s first ever Champions League title last season until a stoppage time Sergio Ramos goal allowed Real to go onto clinch their tenth European Cup by adding three more goals in extra time to run out 4-1 winners.

Atletico have responded in style to that disappointment by winning four and drawing two of the six Madrid derbies between the two sides this season. However, Simeone believes it is another famous victory against Madrid from two years ago in the Copa del Rey final that Atletico can draw inspiration.

“I am not looking back at the previous games. To play in the quarter-finals of the Champions League is not the same as a league game or the Copa del Rey.

“We have a great game ahead of us and our intention is to play with intensity. I forsee a similar game to the one we played two years ago in their stadium (Copa del Rey final). They played with great intensity and I imagine it will be very similar tomorrow.”

Despite ending Real Madrid and Barcelona’s ten-year dominance of the Spanish game to win La Liga last season, Simeone has repeatedly insisted that Los Rojiblancos cannot be expected to compete with Spanish football’s two perennial powerhouses over the 38-game league season.

However, under Simeone Atletico have been cup specialists in winning the UEFA Europa League, Copa del Rey, Spanish Supercup and reaching the final of the Champions League last season for the first time in 40 years. And Atletico have already shown their ability to beat Real over two-legs twice this season in the Supercup final and the Copa del Rey last 16.

“In a league campaign of so many games you can see who are the teams with the biggest budget” added the Argentinian.

“In a knockout tie the difference is reduced. Tomorrow is the first of two games and both sides have a chance to go through.”

»crosslinked«

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment