Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 3/5
The Champions League season finally starts this week, and at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday evening, Atletico Madrid will be playing host to FC Porto in the opening round of Group B. At the same time, the memories of the 2005 and 2007 finals will be refreshed with Liverpool welcoming AC Milan to Anfield in the other match of the group.
Atletico Madrid broke the reign of Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spanish football at the end of 2020-21, being also the last team to have done that before, when they took the La Liga crown in 2014. It was an exciting race right to the finish line, when the Rojiblancos needed a win away to Valladolid to secure the title. Interestingly enough, it was former Barcelona (and Liverpool) striker Luis Suarez who delivered the decisive blow, scoring the winner in the 67th minute, 10 minutes after Angel Correa canceled out Oscar Plano’s 18th-minute opener.
There were some significant transfers over the summer involving Atletico. Most notably, Antoine Griezmann has returned to the club following a two-year spell with Barcelona, while midfielder Saul Niguez joined Chelsea on loan. Midfielder Rodrigo de Paul arrived from Udinese, as did 22-year-old forward Matheus Cunha from Hertha Berlin.
At the moment, Atletico are in third place in La Liga with 10 points from four games, the same tally as Real Madrid and Valencia who occupy the two top spots. Real Sociedad are fourth with nine.
Diego Simeone’s team started the season by beating Celta Vigo away by 1-2. Then they beat Elche at home by 1-0, and played the only draw, 2-2 at home against Europa League holders Villarreal, before winning 1-2 away to Espanyol.
Simeone has no injury concerns at the moment, but defender Stefan Savic is suspended following the red card he received and the foul language he allegedly used towards an official in the defeat to Chelsea in the round of 16 last term.
Thomas Lemar could start this match following a fine performance in the second half of the win over Espanyol. Jose Gimenez is likely to come into the lineup in the place of Savic at the back, with Griezmann and Suarez the obvious choice upfront.
Meanwhile, Porto finished second in the Primeira Liga last season, five points behind champions Sporting Lisbon. They’ll certainly be looking to regain the title this term, but at the moment, they are in fourth place with 11 point from five matches to their name. Benfica (15), Estoril Praia (13) and Sporting (also 11) are all ahead.
Sergio Conceicao’s team started the league campaign with a 2-0 victory at home over B-SAD, followed by a 1-2 triumph away to Famalicao. Then they drew 1-1 away to Maritimo and smashed Arouca at home by 3-0, before drawing 2-2 in a highly exciting match against Sporting in Lisbon, in which Luis Diaz cancelled out Nuno Santos’ opener and striker Toni Martinez picked up a red card late on.
This summer, Porto signed winger Pepe from Gremio, midfielder Marko Grujic on loan from Liverpool with an option to buy, left-back Wendell from Bayer Leverkusen, midfielder Bruno Costa from Portimonense, and centre-back Fabio Cardoso from Santa Clara.
Midfielder Danilo Perreira left to join Paris Saint-Germain, and striker Moussa Marega took advantage of his contract expiring and moved on to Saudi side Hilal.
Porto got one step further than Atletico in last season’s edition of UEFA’s elite club competition, though they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by the same opponent – eventual winners Chelsea.
Goalkeeper Marchesin is out, having had surgery on a serious knee problem, which makes 21-year-old Diogo Costa nailed on to start.
Left-back Zaidu played in the first two games of the season, but then he was strongly pursued by Fenerbahce and Porto reportedly blocked his move to Turkey on Deadline Day. He hasn’t played since, and it remains to be seen if he’s included in the squad for the trip to Madrid.
Much will probably depend on Otavio, who was linked with Liverpool at one point during the summer but the Merseysiders never followed up on the reported interest. The 26-year-old is expected to pull the strings for the Portuguese side from his position as a central attacking midfielder.
Mehdi Taremi, with one goal and one assists in five games this season so far, is set to lead the line again.
With all due respect to Porto, they’re likely to find themselves facing an opponent too formidable at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 3/5
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!