Skip to content

UEFA Champions League Preview: Which Atlético Madrid will meet Milan at the San Siro?

Feb 19, 2014, 3:04 AM EDT

Costa AP

It’s not just that Milan has struggled all season, their 10th place standing in Serie A a testament to the club’s most disappointing seasons in 15 years. It’s the fact that they matchup particularly poorly against Atlético Madrid, a team as comfortable without the ball as with. For a Rossoneri side strong in possession but weak in defense — a team that’s had trouble keeping goals off the scoresheet against capable counter attackers Napoli and Juventus (allowing eight in three games) — it’s a potential recipe for a landslide. As a Milan team that’s had trouble converting possession into goals presses for a home result, Atlético forwards Diego Costa and David Villa will get their chances against central defenders Adil Rami and Cristian Zaccardo.

Given how Atlético’s performed for most of this season, that’s how this game should play out, but in light of the Rojiblancos’ recent slide, the extent to which ‘most of this season’ applies is open to debate. Through the beginning of February, Atlético had only lost once all season. Then, in the span of eight days, Atleti lost three times: twice to Real Madrid; once to Almería. Though they bounced back this weekend with a 3-0 win over Valladolid (scoring twice in the first four minutes), 90 minutes weren’t enough to answer all questions. Has the Atlético that blew through the first five months of this season returned, or has February brought them back to earth?

[MORE: Champions League matchup with Atlético Madrid a cursed blessing for Milan’s Seedorf]

If February’s Atlético is not the same team that tore through fall, Milan has reason to think they can advance. Though they have not been convincing since Clarence Seedorf took over for Max Allegri as head coach on Jan. 16, the team has improved, enough so that talents like Mario Balotelli and Kaká could craft a tie-turning goal if needed. If Atletico are closer to Milan’s level than they appeared this fall, the Rossoneri can play for that one crucial goal. They can play a possession game that waits (rather than pushes) for openings, trusting that a 180-minute game will produce at least one opportunity.

That’s Milan’s best hope, but consider the odds of that situation coming to fruition. In the six months since the 2013-14 season started, Atlético has had one back week. While that week has come relatively recently, it’s also been put into the near past by the team’s weekend result against Valladolid. What are the odds that, over this two-leg tie, Atlético will regress to that poor form? And what are the odds Diego Simeone’s team will play as they have throughout the other five-plus months of the season?

[MORE: Atlético Madrid make a statement before Champions League matchup against Milan]

The only argument that sees Milan as a realistic threat relies on the irrelevant: history. With seven European titles, Milan is European elite, a status the means nothing come kickoff on Wednesday. While those results may translate into faith among the fanbase and some belief within the team, they also say nothing about the capabilities of the current squad. Better measures of Milan’s potential to upset Atlético are this year’s results, few of which recommend the Rossoneri as potential quarterfinalists.

Even if with midfield linchpin Tiago and left back Felipe Luis unlikely to play, Atlético should be considered heavy favorites to advance. The principles that allowed them to join Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain’s title race will still be evident on the field. Consistently able to outwork opponents without unduly exposing themselves, Atlético has developed a way to match up with almost any team in the world, their faith in their own effort making them a dark house in both Spain and Europe.

Whether Milan can match their effort will depend on the Atlético that shows up at the San Siro. If it’s the team that struggled throughout the middle of February, the Rossoneri can claim a result. If it’s the team that’s defined Atlético’s 2013-14 surge, Milan will be out of their league.

Latest Posts
  1. WATCH: Premier League online via NBC Sports Live Extra – Week 9

    Oct 25, 2014, 7:02 AM EDT

    Live Extra

    Where and how to watch every PL game during Week 9 live online or via the app.

  2. Mauricio Pochettino says Paulinho will stay at Spurs

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT

    FK Partizan v Tottenham Hotspur FC - UEFA Europa League Getty Images

    The midfielder is yet to make a Premier League start this season as rumors surfaced that he could return to Brazil on loan.

  3. Chicago Fire 2-1 Houston Dynamo: Stoppage-time winner caps off Chicago comeback (VIDEO)

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:33 PM EDT

    Daniel Paladini, Markus Holgersson Getty Images

    Chicago ended their season with a win as Florent Sinama-Pongolle tallied in stoppage time to erase Houston’s first half lead.

  4. AT THE HALF: Houston lead Chicago 1-0 off Omar Cummings header (VIDEO)

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:22 PM EDT

    Sporting Kansas City v Chicago Fire Getty Images

    You can watch the match live on NBCSN or online via Live Extra.

  5. Report: 76ers owner close to buying Crystal Palace

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:51 PM EDT

    Crystal Palace v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    Neil Warnock could be answering to a new boss if American billionaire Josh Harris purchases Palace.

  6. Major League Soccer suspends referee after arrest for fraud

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Chicago Fire v Colorado Rapids Getty Images

    Jose Carlos Rivero was charged with two felonies earlier this month but continued to work games for the MLS.

  7. WATCH: Red Bulls sign five-year-old with rare genetic disorder

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:27 PM EDT

    DC United v New York Red Bulls - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

    The New York Red Bulls made a young girl’s dream come true as she signed a one-day contract with her favorite team.

  8. Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Arsenal

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Watch the Black Cats host the Gunners at 9:45 a.m. ET online via Live Extra.

  9. Serbia awarded win but docked points after melee against Albania

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:31 PM EDT

    FBL-EURO-2016-SRB-ALB Getty Images

    UEFA handed Serbia a 3-0 win but deducted points after their match against Albania was called off due to violence.

  10. Rio Ferdinand plans to retire after this season

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:43 PM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    The former England captain and Manchester United legend plans to retire after his season at QPR.

  11. Premier League Preview: Swansea City vs. Leicester City

    Oct 24, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT

    Swansea City v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

    Watch as Leicester City travels to Liberty Stadium tomorrow live on NBC at 12:30 p.m. ET.

  12. Juventus agrees to new deal with Premier League transfer rumor mill mainstay Paul Pogba

    Oct 24, 2014, 3:04 PM EDT

    Italy Soccer Serie A AP

    Pogba broke through with 9 goals and 10 assists across all competitions for Juventus last season and a goal and assist at the World Cup.

  13. A coach tells a fan tells a ticket rep… How soccer fans and the Red Bulls created this adorable goal video

    Oct 24, 2014, 2:26 PM EDT

    newyorkredbulls.com newyorkredbulls.com

    It’s a little dusty in here. Godspeed, Irelyn. May a cure be found in short order!

  14. Still defending racial incident, seething at bite talk, Suarez returns for Barcelona

    Oct 24, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT

    Luis Suarez, Neymar AP

    It’s going to be ugly and we’re going to shake our heads. Some will feign shock. And the whole cycle will repeat itself again at Barcelona.

  15. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:20 PM EDT

    DiMaria Getty Images

    Here’s how PST’s editor and lead writer sees things panning out this weekend.

  16. Americans Abroad preview: Eyes on BuLi – Green, Brooks, Johnson tested

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Fabian-Johnson-Borussia-Moenchengladbach-Getty-Images Getty Images

    Perhaps a respite for Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, as their clubs face lesser competition this week in Burnley and QPR, respectively.

  17. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 9

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch every game during Week 9 of the PL.

  18. Premier League Preview: West Ham United vs. Manchester City

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:05 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer League Cup

    It’s a top-four battle — no, seriously — as Manchester City rolls into Upton Park to take on Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United.

  19. An end-of-season (mostly) uncapped MLS XI for Jurgen Klinsmann’s approval

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    Aston Villa v FC Dallas - Pre-Season Friendly Getty Images

    Who makes the cut as MLS players deserving of a look at USMNT camp?

Featured video

PST Extra: Can United beat Chelsea?