Atletico Madrid’s main focus this term is arguably maintaining their position at LaLiga’s summit, but prolonging their Champions League campaign might provide a psychological boost and Luis Suarez will be eager to play the leading role.
The Uruguayan striker’s struggles in the Champions League have been well-publicised, but if his move to Atletico from Barcelona has proven anything, it is that he is not one to be written off.
Suarez will hope to be decisive as Atletico go to Chelsea chasing a one-goal deficit, while in Wednesday’s other tie, defending champions Bayern Munich are practically already through.
We used Opta numbers to preview the two clashes.
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) March 15, 2021
Chelsea v Atletico Madrid (1-0 on aggregate): Suarez’s Champions League misery
Thomas Tuchel’s men are in the driving seat thanks to a commendable 1-0 win at the Spanish top-flight leaders last time, though Atletico do have previous experience of downing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – they beat them 3-1 in London to secure a place in the 2013-14 Champions League final.
Nevertheless, the Blues will take confidence in the fact they have never been eliminated in a two-legged knockout European tie after winning the first leg away from home.
If any team can overcome the odds, however, it is Atletico, whose 50 per cent progression rate from European Cup/Champions League knockout ties after losing the first leg is bettered by only one team to have played a minimum of five knockout ties: Reims (60 per cent, three out of five).
Their chances will surely be boosted if Suarez can finally sort himself out at this level. He is still to net in five Champions League games for Atletico and has not scored in any of his previous 24 away appearances in the competition despite having 70 shots amounting to an expected goals (xG) value of 9.6 over the course of a run that stretches back to September 2015.
By contrast, Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud is averaging a goal every 38 minutes in the Champions League this term, the best single-season record of any player to feature for at least 200 minutes since the 1979-80 European Cup campaign (Ton Blanker, Ajax, one goal every 34 minutes).
Focus switches to @ChelseaFC clash!
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) March 15, 2021
Bayern Munich v Lazio (4-1 on aggregate): Italians face challenge of historic proportions
While Hansi Flick surely will not fall into the trap of complacency, it’s fair to say Bayern are looking pretty rosy heading into the second leg having handed out a comprehensive thrashing in Rome.
Even if you forget they are facing the reigning European champions, the task at hand for Lazio is monumental – no side in the history of the Champions League or its predecessor has ever progressed from a knockout tie after losing the first leg by three goals or more at home.
Additionally, Lazio have not scored four times – the figure they are chasing in Munich – in an away Champions League game since 1999 when they beat Maribor 4-0.
Bayern’s record at home in the competition under Flick has been almost flawless as well, winning each of their six matches by an aggregate score of 18-3.
Each of Lazio’s previous 13 games in the Champions League has seen both teams score, the longest run the history of Europe’s top competition, so they will at least fancy their chances of netting.
But keeping Robert Lewandowski at bay is improbable – after all, he boasts 14 goals and five assists in 12 appearances for Flick in this tournament and has won all of those games.
— S.S.Lazio (@OfficialSSLazio) March 14, 2021