After suffering another setback in their La Liga title defense this weekend, Atletico Madrid are preparing to fight for their Champions League lives against Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday night.
The reigning Spanish champions slipped to fourth place in La Liga this weekend, and now face the task of overturning a 1-0 deficit to the fourth-place Bundesliga club tomorrow.
This season, Atletico have struggled for consistency on the road (one win, four draws and three defeats in their last eight matches), and have been hampered by their poor disciplinary record both domestically and in Europe.
On Saturday, they once again dropped points away from home, and saw their starting centre-back Miranda sent off in the 46th minute after the defender unleashed a vicious elbow on Espanyol’s Abraham.
Last season, Atletico accumulated four red cards and 150 bookings. Now, after Saturday’s match, they are on nine red cards and 146 bookings with 11 La Liga matches left to play and at least one more European game on their schedule.
Atletico will be without midfielder Tiago and centre-back Diego Godin for Tuesday night’s crucial Champions League Round of 16 return leg against Bayer Leverkusen.
However, despite their recent domestic struggles and disciplinary issue, Atletico is gearing his team up for a huge fightback at the Vicente Calderon tomorrow night.
Atletico Madrid have not conceded a single goal at home in the Champions League this season – against Juventus, Malmo and Olympiakos.
Jesus Gamez will likely start at left-back since Guilherme Siqueira has been left out of the 18-man squad. The 29-year-old defender is expecting a complete performance from his teammates and can’t envision Atletico’s name not being drawn in this Friday’s Champions League quarter-final draw.
“The result [this weekend] against Espanyol won’t affect the Bayer game, in which we are going to give our all,” Gamez said.
“It’s going to be a spectacular night. We hope that lady luck is on our side and we can celebrate a victory.
“This is an ambitious team. Being eliminated is not an option for us, although we know it’s not going to be easy.
“They have the result on their side at the moment, but we have great players and so it’s going to be tough for them, too.
“In the first leg, they pressed hard and we didn’t play at the right level, but they didn’t assure themselves their qualification. We have experienced players in the Champions League and we will go all out for victory.”
Programming note: Atletico Madrid vs. Bayer Leverkusen will be shown LIVE on Tuesday at 3:45pm EST on FOX Sports 2 and FoxSoccer2Go.
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