Wednesday's Champions League semi-final looks sure to be a tight affair.
Atletico Madrid have never faced Bayern Munich in the Champions League though they did meet in the 1974 European Cup Final when the West Germans won 4-0 in a replay after a 1-1 draw two days before.
Under Diego Simeone, Atletico Madrid have been regular guests at Europe’s top-table. They won the 2011/12 edition of the Europa League after the Argentine took over in December 2011 and have gone from strength to strength since despite losing many top players in the process. In 2013/14, they lost in extra-time in the final of the Champions League to city rivals Real – a final that could well be repeated in the San Siro next month – and they were knocked out by Real again last season at the quarter-final stage.
In the quarters this year they produced a performance of a lifetime to recover a 2-1 deficit from the opening leg by beating what most consider to be the best ever club side 2-0 at the Vicente Caldron. That win over Barcelona marked their fourth consecutive home clean sheet in this competition and their 11th in 12 – W8-D3-L1.
Domestically, Atletico are enjoying another unexpectedly brilliant season. When Arda Turan left to join Barca "to win the Champions League" it would have been understandable if Simeone’s side suffered a drop in performance however they sit level on points with Barca on 82 points after 35 games. They’ve the best defensive record in the major European leagues as they’ve conceded just 16 times all season and they’ve won 13/16 home games including their last five.
Atletico’s opponents here are another of Europe’s giants: Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich. Bayern scraped past Benfica with two late goals to qualify for their fifth consecutive Champions League semi-final. All of their last four have been against Spanish opposition and they’ve gone W1-D0-L3 in those matches. Their recent away record in the Champions League has been poor as they’ve gone W2-D3-L4 in their last nine road games which includes six half-time stalemates and five goalless opening 45s. Worse still their record travelling to top-10 ranked sides this century is W10-D4-L19 including W0-D2-L4 in their last six.
A fourth consecutive Bundesliga title is all but wrapped up for Bayern with three games remaining as they lead Dortmund by seven points and they come into this fixture in great form having won their last six though the last two have been goalless at half-time. The Germans will be without key man Arjen Robben and that strengthens our belief that Atletico will be able to negate Bayern’s attacking threat.
Since 2011/12, home teams have gone W7-D1-L0 in the first leg of a Champions League semi-final and Atletico proved in the quarters they can frustrate the best of teams. We wouldn’t put anyone off backing Atletico to win here at bigger than 3.0 or the 4.10 on a home win to nil but our preference is for a cagey opening 45 minutes in this mouthwatering tie.
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