Atletico look to home comforts to oust Leverkusen
16 March 2015, 11:36
Madrid - Atletico Madrid will once again have to rely on their formidable home form as they look to overcome a 1-0 first leg deficit against Bayer Leverkusen to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Tuesday.
Last season's beaten finalists have failed to win a game since falling to Hakan Calhanoglu's stunning strike at the Bay Arena three weeks ago.
However, they have won 20 of their last 22 European games at the Vicente Calderon, including wins in all three of their group games earlier this season without conceding a goal.
Another clean sheet is likely to be in order if Diego Simeone's men are to progress to the last eight with goals of their own in short supply in recent weeks.
Since thrashing Real Madrid 4-0 last month, Los Rojiblancos have found the net just once in their last four games.
"In football there are moments in a season where sometimes you are more deadly in front of goal than others. Sometimes the goal comes easily and other time you have loads of good chances and it doesn't go in," said Simeone after Saturday's 0-0 draw away at Espanyol.
"We need to keep going, roll up our sleeves and work hard because that is the only way we know how to improve."
Simeone will also be without two of his most experienced campaigners in Diego Godin and Tiago through suspension.
However, top scorer Mario Mandzukic is expected to return to the starting line-up for the first time since defeat in Leverkusen after a spat with Simeone in place of Fernando Torres.
In contrast to Atletico's slump in form, Leverkusen come into the game full of confidence having won their last five games without even conceding a goal.
The Germans could even have put the tie to bed at home with a series of promising counter-attacks that lacked the final finish.
Captain Simon Rolfes, though, is backing his side to get the away goal that would go a long way to sealing their place in the last eight for the first time since the reached the final in 2002.
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"We need to tick off the last few games and concentrate on Atletico. If we stand up for each other, then we also have a good chance in Madrid.
"We are always good for a goal away from home, but it's just as important that we don't concede one."
The first meeting between the two was a feisty affair with 10 yellow cards, a red for Tiago and a bust up between the two coaching staffs.
And Leverkusen boss Roger Schmidt believes his side will need to keep a cool head in the cauldron like atmosphere in the Spanish capital.
"We need a super game, but we'll head down there with a lot of self confidence for the second-leg," he said.
"We're still the underdogs, but we've shown that we have a good chance.
"There will be a lot of emotions in the stadium, so we know we'll have to keep cool heads in order to make the right decisions."