Are Atletico Madrid Dark Horses for Champions League Success This Season?
The 2018-19 Champions League group stage has reached its conclusion and the competition looks wide open. Manchester City have been chalked up as the favourites since the summer but the Citizens were far from foot-perfect during the group stage, conceding six goals in as many games and dropping points against Lyon on two separate occasions. Despite finishing behind Dortmund in Group A, Atletico Madrid could potentially be underrated by the market with Diego Simeone’s side keeping clean sheets in each of their last three Champions League games and picking up a perfect nine from nine at the Wanda Metropolitana.
Source: Atletico de Madrid via Twitter
Atletico qualified for the knock-out stage with relative ease courtesy of a routine 2-0 victory over Thierry Henry’s Monaco. Diego Simeone admitted that his side ran out of energy towards the end of tie but the La Liga outfit had already done enough to secure three points against the French strugglers.
The club have a decent Champions League pedigree despite never winning the competition. They’ve reached the final on three occasions and were only defeated on penalties by city rivals Real Madrid in May 2016. It was the second time they’ve lost in the showpiece event to Los Blancos and they will be determined to go one better this time around.
Atletico Madrid have been installed as relative outsiders for success this season and can be backed at 21.00 according to Oddschecker’s latest Champions League odds. They are ahead of Group A rivals Dortmund in the betting but offer plenty of value for punters. PSG have been far from convincing so far and only just scraped through to the knock-out round at the expense of Napoli whilst Juventus slipped up against Young Boys during the final match-day. Barcelona and Real Madrid have both struggled for consistency so far whilst Bayern Munich are perennial semi-finalists. There is no standout side in this season’s event which is good news for those who are backing Atletico this year.
Simeone’s men have lost just one of their last ten games in the Competition and Chelsea are the only side to have beaten them on their own patch since September 2015. Prior to that, December 2009 was the last time that the Atleti faithful witnessed a home defeat in the Champions League. They will be incredibly difficult to beat in the knock-out rounds and whichever side is drawn against them are unlikely to relish a trip to the Spanish capital. They scored seven times at home during the group stages and conceded just a single goal with free-scoring Dortmund even failing to find a way through their resolute back-line.
Source: FootyQuizTournament via Twitter
The club were disappointed to crash out of the competition twelve months ago but they made amends by clinching the Europa League title for the third time. They beat Marseille 2-0 at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais which further highlighted their insatiable appetite for knock-out football under the current regime.
They’ve been progressing well in La Liga this season and they’ve suffered just one defeat in their first 16 matches this campaign. As of December 16th, they sit second in the table and have shipped the joint-fewest goals in the division. They’ve conceded just twelve times this season with only four of those strikes arriving at the Wanda Metropolitana. Only Eibar, Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao have found a way through so far and that near-perfect record looks set to continue in 2019.
Simeone believes his side deserve “more respect” and has praised his team’s ability to remain competitive across multiple competitions. They’ve already bolstered their trophy cabinet this season with the addition of the UEFA Super Cup which they clinched back in August and further success in cup competitions is expected. Antoine Griezmann has been in terrific form so far and he’s netted in each of Atletico’s three Champions League home matches. He’s scored just six times in La Liga but the French international tends to save his best for European competitions. He is currently joint-fifth in the top goalscorer market alongside Kylian Mbappe.
The knock-out rounds of the competition may not commence until the end of February but it already looks set to be a fascinating tussle between a number of European heavyweights and Atletico Madrid may just have been underestimated by the online bookmakers. It is rarely advised to write-off Diego Simeone’s side and they are likely to relish their underdog status once again. Los Rojiblancos are unlikely to go down without a fight and they will prove tough opposition for any side in the last 16.