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The German side sailed to qualification through the group somewhat comfortably, having dispatched the likes of Benfica and Zenit to top the table. Nagelsmann and his team then unpicked the wits of Jose Mourinho’s Spurs over two legs with a 4-0 aggregate victory.
Werner will be badly missed
Their success, however, was largely down to their now departed 28-goal forward Timo Werner. He scored the first goal against Spurs to help them on their way and earned his Premier League move to Chelsea on the back of some instinctive finishing, and missing such a key player is a hammer blow to their chances of progressing here.
Werner training at Chelsea
Hosting Atletico Madrid is perhaps their biggest test in European competition to date and with Diego Simeone in the opposing dugout, they possess a different entity to what they have faced previously. Atletico are experienced in the competition and their resilience in defensive areas could prove to be a nut too big to crack for the hosts, though it would be foolish to rule out Leipzig, even without Werner.
Atletico Madrid attempted to change their tactical style earlier on in the season, switching from being difficult to carve open, to losing their identity by utilising an approach that is easy on the eye. This switch adhered towards the modern methods of a measured high press, with progressive interplay in the build-up and patience in attack. Although Atletico never lost their patience in the final third, their switch to a more expansive brand of football never really worked out and Simeone soon returned to his more defensive approach.
Liverpool Win Will Be A Huge Morale Boost
Switching back to basics is the reason they find themselves in the Champions League quarter-finals, counting themselves fortunate to have beaten Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp’s side dominating the contest. The Reds should have had the game wrapped up in normal time, having failed to dispatch one of their 13 shots on target. Back-up goalkeeper Adrian ultimately cost his side the tie with his errors, while Liverpool were unable to find the inspiration that so often pulled them through on a Champions League night at Anfield.
The win for Simeone, however, sparked the fight and desire back into his team, cementing his name as the master spoiler with a victory against the odds. Atletico’s plan to frustrate worked, while their defensive exertions have been in full supply all season. In the Spanish top division, only Champions Real Madrid have a better defensive record, losing just four games, keeping 22 clean sheets and conceding 27 goals.
With this fixture and the remaining Champions League contests being one-leg ties, Atletico will fancy themselves to go all the way and finally conquer a competition that has previously eluded them. Their squad is settled, their plan is set in stone and they will run all night, scrap and fight for their manager.
Atletico confirmed on Monday that the two players tested positive for coronavirus were attacker Angel Correa and right-back Sime Vrsaljko. They will be forced into self-isolating at home until the illness subsides, otherwise, Simeone has a fully fit squad to choose from.
Leipzig, however, have no injury concerns heading into this clash but face a dilemma in the striking department. In the absence of Werner, Nagelsmann could retain his successful 3-5-2 formation, with Yussuf Poulsen and Patrick Schick expected to spearhead the attack.
This tie is a mouth-watering spectacle and boasts managers with two differing philosophies. Simeone’s structure with and without possession is up against a high octane Leipzig press, although Nagelsmann could alter his style so that his side are more conservative without the ball. Without Werner, however, the spectacle for this contest somewhat lowers and this dramatically decreases Leipzig’s chances of winning. He was their focal point in the attack, constructing an effective press and capitalising on the opposition’s weaknesses.
An affair against one of Europe’s most streetwise teams in recent times is a struggle, but when you factor in that Leipzig have had a seven week lay off from competitive fixtures, their task becomes harder. Atletico will unarguably be fresher than the hosts, but for a side who press willingly to win the ball back, perhaps a long break was needed for them to recharge their batteries.
Atletico are expected to dominate the game and it’s hard to foresee anything other, while a low-scoring affair is anticipated. The visitors are notoriously slow starters, with three of their last four wins coming after a 0-0 first half. The nerves and lack of match sharpness, however, could be the undoing of Leipzig who should take time to adapt to what faces them.
Alvaro Morata is the man for the big occasion in the Champions League knockout ties, having netted 8 in his last 15 games beyond the group stages of the competition. This suggests that a bet on him to score and Atletico to win at 5/2* is a solid trading price using SkyBet.
Leipzig attacking midfielder Marcel Sabitzer has also found a red hot streak on the continent, scoring four in his last 7, while Timo Werner’s departure could put the onus on him to deliver. Morata & Sabitzer 1+ shots on target is priced at 6/4* on the same market.
Using the bet365 bet builder, they are offering under 3 goals in the match combined and Morata to score anytime at 11/2*.
*All odds shown were correct at time of writing (11:00 13th August 2020) & are subject to change at any time.
Similar to last night’s match between Atalanta and PSG, the tactical battle between the managers are poised to deliver an entertaining tussle on the field, while the difference in experience on the European stage provides Simeone with the upper hand. Leipzig is untried and untested this deep into the competition and in a tight game that could come down to desire, discipline, and concentration, Atletico will have the edge.
Author: Tom Griffin