Almost every season, Atletico Madrid feature in the conversation when we get to the business end of the Champions League. And every season — without fail — the Spanish side always manage to come up short.
But as we venture towards the conclusion of this strangest of all European adventures, all the signs point to things being done differently. What could be more different than Diego Simeone’s side actually lifting the famous European Cup at last?
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Coronavirus has caused chaos in this year’s tournament, with the last-16 ties only being completed last week, six months after the round began in February.
So we have finally arrived at the quarter-finals, with the competition forced to conclude in a mini-tournament in Lisbon, again due to COVID 19.
So far, so different.
Then we add in the early departures of holders Liverpool, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Serie A champions Juventus and Atletico’s great city rivals Real Madrid.
A favourable draw in the last eight means Atleti will also avoid heavyweights Barcelona or Bayern Munich — plus tournament favourites Manchester City — until the final, should they get there.
The omens are certainly hitting that this could be the year the three-time beaten finalists make the final step to be crowned champions of Europe. Atletico even dodged a bullet when two of their number tested positive for coronavirus. Luckily the rest of the team were cleared to travel to Lisbon.
But first up is their quarter-final on Thursday night. They need to deal with an RB Leipzig side shorn of their shining talent, Timo Werner, who has left to join Premier League side Chelsea. Now the Germans will be forced to turn to playmaker and goal-getter Marcel Sabitzer if they are to get the better of Atleti. The Austrian has scored four in the Champions League this campaign and set up plenty more. However, it would have been a tall order even with Werner, and now it seems colossal.
Remember, Simeone’s men accounted for defending champions Liverpool when they secured a famous 3-2 win at Anfield.
“The game against Liverpool will go down in history and was one of the best we’ve had in a long time,” Atletico striker Diego Costa said. “It gave fans high expectations and we will give our best to try to meet those expectations. Hopefully we will play well and luck will stay on our side.”
All teams need luck and Atletico certainly look to have it in spades this campaign.
Catch the match
RB Leipzig v Atletico Madrid
Estadio Jose Alvalade
Match broadcast on beIN Sports