RB Leipzig vs Atlético Madrid: Champions League preview
All the latest news and information ahead of the Champions League quarter-final tie between RB Leipzig and Atlético Madrid in Lisbon.
RB Leipzig vs Atlético Madrid: preview
Although it now seems like a long time ago, RB Leipzig’s last-16 tie against Tottenham Hotspur was a historic achievement for the club, who had entered the Champions League knockout stage for the first time. A comprehensive 4-0 aggregate victory over last season’s finalists showed that they are not to be underestimated by anyone in this competition. Marcel Sabitzer scored twice against Spurs and the Austrian is now the highest-scoring midfielder in this year’s competition, providing four goals and two assists in seven appearances. Leipzig will hope he can continue that form into the finals tournament in Lisbon to help fill the void left by Timo Werner, their 34-goal top scorer who recently joined Chelsea.
Leipzig have rarely lacked goals under the stewardship of Julian Nagelsmann and they have built a reputation for progressive attacking football in recent seasons. Of the eight quarter-finalists, only Bayern Munich have had more attempts on goal in this year’s Champions League. Despite being just 33 years old, Nagelsmann is already in his fifth year of senior coaching and he turned down interest from Real Madrid in 2018 to continue his work with Leipzig. He became the youngest coach to win a Champions League knockout tie against Spurs, but his impressive CV does not yet include any major honours. The Champions League trophy would be quite a way to start.
In the opposing dugout, Diego Simeone is now a manager of considerable top level experience, having won nearly everything in his eight seasons with Atleti. However, the Champions League is the one prize that has eluded him after suffering two defeats in the final to Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016. There is no chance of repeat of that fate this year after Real’s elimination last weekend and Atleti will take confidence from their last-16 victory over Liverpool back in March. Simeone claimed that their victories in both legs over the holders was a turning point in their season, which ended with an 18-match unbeaten streak to clinch third place in La Liga.
All seemed to be going to plan for Atleti until the club returned two positive Covid-19 tests shortly before they were scheduled to fly out to Portugal, with the players later revealed to be Sime Vrsaljko and Ángel Correa. Vrsaljko was already ruled out with a knee injury, but Correa is often favoured by Simeone for the big games due to his work rate and intensity. The single-legged format of the remaining ties may suit Atleti’s pragmatic style of play but they will need to improve their scoring record if they are to progress far in the tournament. Of the eight quarter-finalists, only Lyon (11) have scored fewer goals than Atleti’s 12.
RB Leipzig vs Atlético Madrid: injuries and suspensions
The departure of Werner brings with it the biggest decision for Nagelsmann, with Yussef Poulsen and Patrick Schick the most likely partnership in attack. Assuming Leipzig stick to their 3-5-2 formation, Dani Olmo will hope to fill the number ten role behind the strikers, having impressed since joining from Dinamo Zagreb in January. Central defender Ibrahima Konate is out after suffering a recurrence of the hip injury that kept him out for much of the season.
Correa and Vrsaljko are both definitely out for Atleti and will remain in Madrid to self-isolate. The only uncertainty for Simeone is the fitness of midfielder Thomas Partey, who was so impressive in the previous round but has picked up a muscular injury in training.
RB Leipzig: Gulacsi; Klostermann, Upamecano, Halstenberg; Mukiele, Laimer, Sabitzer, Angelino; Olmo; Schick, Poulsen
Atlético Madrid: Oblak; Trippier, Savic, Giménez, Lodi; Llorente, Partey, Saul, Koke; Felix, Costa
RB Leipzig vs Atlético Madrid: what the managers said
Julien Nagelsmann (RB Leipzig): “We’ll have to be creative and have control. They’re a European heavyweight, especially in recent years.
“My biggest dream is to win the Champions League. It’s a long and complicated road. Everyone left in the quarter-finals are top teams and we’re happy to be here.”
Diego Simeone (Atlético Madrid): "They continually change positions and attack a lot. Their numbers show how good they are. I respect them a lot.
"We have to understand that winning is not [only] important, it's the only thing there is."
RB Leipzig vs Atlético Madrid: prediction
With such high stakes played for over a single leg, this tie offers a fascinating tactical battle between a talented but inexperienced Leipzig side and the more solid but goal-shy Atlético Madrid. This is generally thought to be the weaker side of the draw, so the victor on Thursday night stands a real chance of reaching the Champions League final and being crowned European champions for the first time. It should be a close game, but Atlético’s big match nous should just see them through. 1-2