Manchester United are back in Champions League action on Wednesday evening, and they are in against another La Liga outfit in the current champions of Spain. Atletico Madrid is unlikely to successfully defend their title this season, but there’s no reason why they can’t win this tournament. The home team know there were tougher teams they could have drawn and will believe they are good enough to progress to the next round and keep the dream alive. If they are to achieve that, Atletico must make home advantage count in this game that is scheduled for 20:00 GMT.
Both Atletico Madrid and Manchester United impressed during the group stages of this competition with finishing as the best of the rest behind runaway winners Liverpool in Group B. At the same time, Man Utd ended top of Group F, one point better than Villarreal. They deserve their place in European knockout football, but how far can they go? The journey of one side will end at the Round of 16 but will it be La Liga or the Premier League that goes through after two legs?
These teams are no strangers to clashing in UEFA competition, and the head to head stats show that the Spaniards are unbeaten against the Brits. They met home and away in the European Cup Winners Cup back in 1991 when Atletico eased to a 3-0 home win before fighting out a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in the return leg. Much has changed at both clubs since, but Madrid fans would dearly love a repeat performance. It’s on Man Utd to ensure this tie remains live, heading back to England.
Atletico failed to impress
The Spanish champions did enough to get out of Group B, but they failed to impress during their first six matches of this competition. Madrid ended as runners up behind Liverpool with seven points on the board, 11 fewer than the Reds and only two better than FC Porto, who finished in third place and dropped a level into the Europa League. At the end of those six games, their stats read two wins, one draw and three defeats with seven goals scored and eight conceded. They also lost three of their last four, with each of those defeats coming on the bounce.
In La Liga, Atletico Madrid may be the current champions, are. Still, the trophy won’t be in their possession for long, with Real Madrid top of the table and Sevilla looking to be their only challenger at this advanced stage of the campaign. Real Madrid is already 15 points clear of Atletico Madrid, who are currently down in fifth place and in danger of not only losing their title but missing out on next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish. Everyone connected to the home dressing room knows this season hasn’t been good enough.
In their last five league starts, Atletico Madrid has won three and lost two games, but they prepare for their Champions League return on the back of a La Liga win, having claimed three vital points at the weekend. Atletico was in fine form away to Osasuna on Saturday, easing to a 3-0 victory thanks to goals from Sequeira, Suarez and Correa. The victors scored inside the opening three minutes of that match, setting the trend for the play. Their last home match ended in a 1-0 defeat to Levante earlier this month.
More to come from Man Utd
Manchester United won Group F ahead of Villarreal, Atalanta and Young Boys. They may have finished on top, but the Red Devils weren’t exactly convincing during those six games, with their stats for the group settled at three wins and two draws against a defeat, scoring 11 goals and conceding eight. They lost their opening match, going down to bottom club Young Boys in what was a shock result, but United went unbeaten since then, beating Villarreal on matchday five to secure pole position in the pool.
Things haven’t been going as well in the Premier League, and Man Utd are already 17 points off the pace of neighbours and current champions Manchester City. They are improving, though and have scrambled back into the top four, sitting fourth behind Man City, Liverpool, and Chelsea. United are involved in a three-horse race with West Ham United and Arsenal to claim fourth, and that is likely to go right down to the wire.
Manchester United travel on the back of two wins on the bounce in the Premier League, meaning they arrive in Spain with confidence in the camp. That run began with a 2-0 victory over Brighton at Old Trafford, and they were last seen beating Leeds United 4-2 at Elland Road in a fascinating contest. Six goals scored in two games is excellent form and would have provided the squad with a timely confidence boost.
Atletico Madrid v Man Utd prediction
Atletico Madrid hasn’t had their problems to seek this season, and the locals know they must improve in every department. They are under pressure heading into this match, knowing they must win at home to give them the best chance of going through to the next round. They want to avoid having to win in England.
This game comes at exactly the right time for Man Utd. Their form is improving, and they have been better in defence and impressive in attack. If they go to Spain and are anywhere near their best, they should have enough quality to grab a vital first-leg win and take a lead back to Manchester. We are used to seeing Cristiano Ronaldo perform on the big stage, and this tie looks perfect for him to grab the headlines once again. CR7 will be behind everything good about United during this tie.
Champions League odds
Atletico Madrid is priced at 2.46 with 22bet to win this match with Man Utd trading at 3.05 and the draw a 3.144 option.
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