Kick Off: Tuesday February 24, 20.45 CET
Vicente Calderon, Madrid
Atletico Madrid welcome Porto to the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday as the Champions League returns to the Spanish capital. The home side will be looking to get a positive result before travelling to Portugal, whilst the visitors will no doubt be happy if they can grab an away goal…
The Champions League is either returning at the wrong time or the right time for Atletico Madrid and it will probably only be known which it is over the next couple of weeks. For whilst it might appear to be arriving in the middle of a crisis at the club, as Atletico have won just one game in La Primera so far this year, it could also be a welcome break for the Spanish side. At times last year they were really struggling domestically and yet in Europe they were pulling out results that eventually saw them finish second in the group behind Liverpool.
Of course, a lot has changed since 2008, most notably the head coach, with Abel Resino coming into replace Javier Aguirre. The Mexican was sacked mainly because of the terrible league form this year but there he seemed to know exactly what he was doing in the Champions league. The new coach has already admitted that he may well ask Aguirre for advice regarding the competition and Atletico could do a lot worse than play as they did last year against Porto this Tuesday evening.
The Spanish side know that in front of their home fans it will be key to get a good result and after a promising performance against Sevilla at the weekend, they must be positive. Sergio Aguero only had about twenty minutes at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan so he should be perfectly fit for this game, which will be a major boost, and with a passionate crowd behind them Atletico will hope to continue where they left off last year.
Much like Atletico, Porto will be hoping that the winter break does not have too much of an effect on them as, when they finished last year, they were beating Arsenal to finish top of their group. At that stage the Portuguese side were struggling on the domestic front but they have climbed from fifth in the league to being four points clear at the top, and extended their unbeaten run to twelve matches at the weekend.
Most impressively has been their away form in the league this season though, which has seen them lose just once, draw twice and win seven times. In Europe they were not quite so good away from the Estadio do Dragao last season but they still managed to pick up wins against both Dynamo Kiev and Fenerbahce, neither of which are regarded as easy places to go.
Despite their good form they will still start this tie as the underdogs, but should not be underestimated by Atletico at all. As always they have some quality players in their ranks and most worrying for the Spanish side will be the solidity of the Portuguese team, especially in defence. The back line is both strong and uncompromising, and they are unlikely to give their hosts too many chances to test Helton.
Feb 21 Sevilla 1-0 Atletico Madrid (La Liga)
Feb 15 Atletico Madrid 1-1 Getafe (La Liga)
Feb 8 Recreativo Huelva 0-3 Atletico Madrid (La Liga)
Feb 1 Atletico Madrid 1-2 Valladolid (La Liga)
Jan 25 Malaga 1-1 Atletico Madrid (La Liga)
Feb 20 Pacos de Ferreira 0-2 Porto (Portuguese Liga)
Feb 15 Porto 3-1 Rio Ave (Portuguese Liga)
Feb 8 Porto 1-1 Benfica (Portuguese Liga)
Feb 1 Belenenses 1-3 Porto (Portuguese Liga)
Jan 24 Braga 0-2 Porto (Portuguese Liga)
The home side will be without defender Luis Perea, who sustained a head injury at the weekend, so Giourkas Seitaridis is likely to come in at right-back.
Ever Banega and Luis Garcia look as though they will both miss the match with injury but the good news is that Sergio Aguero should start after resting for most of the game with Sevilla at the weekend.
Probable Line-Up (4-4-2): Leo Franco – Seitaridis, Heitinga, Ujfalusi, Pernia – Maxi, Maniche, Assuncao, Simao – Aguero, Forlan
Freddy Guarin and Fucile both missed the victory over Pacos de Ferreira with injury but the latter has travelled with the team and should play.
Elsewhere, midfielder Lucho Gonzalez came on as a sub on Friday after recovering from a knee problem and he should be able to start.
Probable Line-Up (4-3-3): Helton – Cissokho, Rolando, Alves, Fucile – Fernando, Lucho, Meireles – Lisandro, Hulk, Rodriguez
PLAYER TO WATCH
The Porto defence might be strong but they are not always the quickest and this could give Sergio Aguero some joy on Tuesday evening. The Argentine only played the last twenty minutes against Sevilla at the weekend but in that time he looked lively and sharp. In front of his home fans he will no doubt be more than up for the game and will be looking to continue his good form in this competition.
As his name suggests, Hulk is a man-mountain, and he is sure to give the Atletico Madrid back line plenty to think about at the Vicente Calderon. Not only is he good in the air and strong on the ball, but he also possesses a good first touch and shot. He should get good service from all the attacking players around him and it will be up to him to take his chances.
There is no doubt that the onus is on Atletico Madrid this Tuesday and they will surely have to get a positive result here if they are to progress to the next round. Porto are not always the strongest away from home and aren’t likely to sit back and defend all game, which could well play into the hands of the home side and allow them to score a couple.
Atletico Madrid 2-0 Porto
James Walker-Roberts, Goal.com