The most industrious tie of the quarterfinals features an intriguing pair of underdog stories; in one corner, Atletico, consistent overachievers, favourites to neutrals for their work rate and determination, and in the other, the English champions, threatening to repeat the same unlikely path of fortune that defined their domestic success last season.
Below we preview the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League 2016/17 between Atletico Madrid and Leicester City .
Atletico Madrid vs Leicester City
Atletico haven’t had a particularly good season by recent standards. They’ve been unable to keep pace with the 2 larger Spanish giants in the table, and ironically, the Champions League remains the best chance for silverware for Los Colchoneros. Given that their usual nemesis, Real Madrid, has been drawn elsewhere for now, Atletico have a clear road to the semifinals, if they can ensure they aren’t complacent about drawing the least fancied opponent within the last 8.
English Champions Leicester City look completely unrecognisable from the team that toiled under Claudio Ranieri, but bizarrely, it appears that parting ways with their league winning manager has, for the time being, galvanised the club and its cast into producing football not unlike the brand that won them a maiden Premier League title. With 6 wins from their last 6 (at the time of writing), their recovery has been both swift and dramatic, and a respectable midtable finish appears likely if their form holds up.
Players to Watch:
Antoine Griezmann remains intent on delivering Atletico to another final, and thus far the Frenchman has been as good as his word having scored in 6 of his last 9 games. Goalkeeper Jan Oblak’s return to the team has been largely impressive, including a sublime display at home to Leverkusen in the Round of 16 second leg. Left back Filipe Luis has hit an incredible patch of form, balancing defensive awareness with tremendous attacking support; if he’s given the room to express himself, it may not be so easy for Leicester to rely on Mahrez to guide their build up play.
Leicester’s improvement in form has coincided nicely with striker Jamie Vardy returning to form; he’s scored 5 goals since the season turning win over Liverpool. Nigerian youngster Wilfred Ndidi has been equally influential in defensive respects, and while he may not be at the standard of departed midfielder N’Golo Kante, Ndidi offers a considered physical presence in midfield, which should be integral against the combative style of Atletico. Equally so is Danny Drinkwater who hasn’t enjoyed as noticeable an improvement in form but has nonetheless improved and been far more influential in recent matches with his passing contributions.
Coach Craig Shakespeare may have done a superb job navigating the Leicester position since the controversial departure of Ranieri, but it’s unclear what the combative style of Atletico will pose to the English champions. Add Atletico’s lack of incentive against any other competition (it’s really Champions League or bust, at this stage), Atletico’s excellent unbeaten home record against English opposition, and coach Diego SImeone’s outspoken desire to add more silverware to the Los Rojiblancos trophy cabinet, and it’s only reasonable to expect Leicester’s fairytale to end in the quarterfinal.
But that’s we said against Sevilla, too.
- Atletico Madrid: 3/10
- Leicester City: 10/1
Please note betting odds quoted are correct at time of publication and are subject to change. View the latest Football Betting Odds
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*League placings correct at time of publishing.