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Simeone facing his toughest night


I usually put the telly on whenever #Vamos’ El Tercer Tiempo with Axel Torres is on and last night’s programme gave us a dose of optimism – Bayern have nothing to play for and face Barça behind closed doors; Sevilla are a better side than Salzburg and that game will also be played without the home fans in the stands; Unai Emery’s Villarreal seem to play better whenever they play for a goalless draw than when they need to win; and Atlético have the quality to beat Porto in a game they have to win. All of that made me feel quite positive about the chances of Spain’s clubs in this week’s final group games. But then Pichi Alonso made me have my doubts with his persuasive counterarguments. Jorge Valdano, as balanced as ever, wrapped it up by saying that Villarreal and Sevilla have a better chance of going through than Barça and Atleti.

Real Madrid competing to finish champions of Group D

It was an in-depth debate about a matter which has all of us worried. A black cloud is hovering above our football – we started this season’s Champions League represented by five clubs and four of them are teetering on the edge of the trapdoor ahead of the final group game. Real Madrid are only playing to end top of their group – they are at home and only need a draw. They will be without Benzema, who does a lot more for them than just score goals, because he drops back to take an active role in the team’s moves. He is a unique player, as Ancelotti said yesterday. The good news is that we have recently discovered Jovic can be very useful - playing in a less multi-faceted role than Karim, more as a classic No.9. At his side, he will have Vinicius, Madrid’s player of the season so far.

Simeone feeling the heat

So later tonight all eyes will be on events in Porto, where Simeone will be without three of his centre-backs and his side don’t even depend on themselves, but what happens in Milan, where Jürgen Klopp is expected to rest his key players. Later this month, El Cholo will have spent a decade at Atleti, and tonight's game is the most difficult test he has faced in all of that time. The current squad is worth more than any of the ones he has had during the past 10 years, but the team just hasn’t been able to get into gear. For the first time you get the feeling that he is consumed by doubt, that things aren’t turning out for him, that he is losing his grasp. The site of him sighing as the first goal went in against Cádiz was the image of a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Anyway, whatever happens tonight, tomorrow will be a new day.


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