Atletico Madrid look to overturn Bayer defeat
Madrid, March 16 (IANS) Atletico Madrid need to recapture their best form if they are to overturn a 0-1 first leg defeat to Bayer Leverkusen and qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Tuesday night.
Atletico's defeat in Germany three weeks ago was symptomatic of the Spanish team's poor recent form where they have especially struggled away from home. That trend continued on Saturday when they were held to a 0-0 draw away to Espanyol in a result which saw them slip to fourth place in La Liga, reports Xinhua.
Now comes the moment of truth as last season's beaten Champions League finalists have to overturn a first leg defeat against a rival which shows itself to be every bit as rugged and as competitive as Atletico can be.
They will have to do so without the suspended Tiago Cardoso, who was sent off in Germany, while central defender Diego Godin also misses out for accumulation of yellow cards, meaning that Gimenez will step into the heart of the Atletico defence.
Meanwhile, Atletico defender Jesus Gamez highlights that Leverkusen will probably start the game scoring an away goal, something that would be a major factor because if the Germans could score in Vicente Calderon it would leave Atletico needing to score three times in order to qualify.
"They have to come out looking for a goal which would complicate things for us. If they don't do that it would be a mistake," said Gamez, who highlighted Atletico's strength at the back.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone will have to decide who plays in attack and it looks likely that he will bring Mario Mandzukic back into his starting line-up as the former Bayern striker has been rested in recent games.
Mandzukic is a constant threat from set pieces and his link-up play with Antoine Griezmann has been important in some of Atletico's best moments of the season.
There will be a packed house at the Calderon and a pressure cooker atmosphere for a game where Atletico not only have to show their teeth in attack but also to ensure there are no potentially fatal leaks at the back.