Atletico Madrid host Olympiacos at the Vicente Calderon today with all still to play for in UEFA Champions League Group A. Jason Pettigrove looks at what is in store for us this evening.
Diego Simeone and his charges clearly need to take the tie quite a bit more seriously than the previous meeting between the two. The Greek side deservedly took the points on that occasion and the result was perhaps the kicker that the Spaniards needed to up their game.
Just two games in all competitions have been lost since and Atleti sit proudly atop their Champions League group. However, another loss here, and an expected win for Juventus at minnows Malmo, and Atleti will go into their final match away at Juve level on points with the Italians and their opponents this week.
The prospect of therefore going out in the group stages is a real one, and something Simeone has to guard against.
Fortunately, summer signing Antoine Griezmann has finally found the form that persuaded the Rojiblancos to take him from Real Sociedad, and four goals in the last six club games with a man-of-the-match award to boot are evidence of a significant improvement.
His fellow scorer from the first game in Greece, Mario Mandzukic, also continues to impress. A rich vein of form in goal-scoring terms needs to be curtailed if Olympiacos have any designs on participation in the later rounds of the tournament.
Ex-Real Madrid and Spain player, and now Olympiacos manager, Michel, should be going all out to win at the home of his old local rivals, thus ensuring that the Greek’s have their fate in their own hands. A slender loss to Juventus is their only reverse in the last six so they too approach this tie in decent form.
Michel’s concern has to be the topsy-turvy nature of his sides form in this competition however. Wins against Atleti and Juve have been tempered by two losses, including a surprise defeat in Sweden.
A lot of responsibility will rest on Pajtim Kasami, the star man in the first game between the sides. His industry in central midfield all but overwhelmed the more celebrated talents of Gabi and Koke. Excellent distribution was a feature against a team noted for its own passing excellence.
If ex-Barca duo Eric Abidal and Alberto Botia are given the nod at the heart of the defence, their experience of the Spanish game could prove invaluable in turning the match in their favour.
And the visitors will almost certainly have to find the net because their hosts haven’t had too many problems doing so.
Not since an away game at Rayo Vallecano in August have they failed to score, and 19 goals in the last six home games gives Olympiacos an idea of the task that awaits them.
The Vicente Calderon offers one of the best and most intimidating atmospheres in European football when in full voice and we can be assured of the same come Wednesday.
Brace yourselves. We’re in for a hell of a ride.
Will Atletico Madrid qualify for the knockout stages tonight?
Are Olympiacos good enough to seriously trouble the Spaniards?
Read more from Jason Pettigrove here!