Atlético Madrid v Juventus: Old Lady can return to Turin with a positive result
Jack Lang expects Max Allegra's men to place one foot in the quarter-finals on Wednesday night...
"Atleti will provide the expected grit and determination, but inspiration has been lacking, and Juve have the know-how to manage threat posed by Antoine Griezmann..."
Atlético Madrid v Juventus
Live on BT Sport 3
Atleti seeking an improvement
Atlético Madrid's failure to beat Club Brugge on the final matchday of the group stage always looked like it could come back to haunt them when the last-16 draw was made. And so it did: Los Colchoneros, who finished second behind Borussia Dortmund in Group A on goal difference, were paired with Juventus, in one of the ties of the round. In that moment, the final, at their own Wanda Metropolitano stadium, looked just that bit more distant.
The weeks since haven't provided much reason for confidence. Atleti are second in La Liga coming into this game but have been huffing and puffing away, most of their points coming against the division's lesser lights. Girona knocked them out of the Copa del Rey, they lost at home to Real Madrid, and only a scrappy late goal took them past Rayo Vallecano at the weekend.
The defence - the main pillar of the Diego Simeone era - remains largely solid, even if Lucas Hernández is sidelined this week. But the attack is overly reliant on Antoine Griezmann, with the midfield four often fairly stodgy and Diego Costa struggling for form and fitness. In fact, Simeone could opt to pair Griezmann with Álvaro Morata, who is still finding his feet in Madrid but could have some inside knowledge of the Juve defence.
Juve focused on European task
With a handsome 13-point advantage at the top of Serie A, Juventus have been free to prepare rigorously for this game. They have been far from flawless over the last month - Atalanta thrashed them in the Coppa Italia and Parma held them to a 3-3 draw - but the Champions League is obviously the priority for Max Allegri, and it's not hard to imagine his side adopting a more intense, focused posture when they travel to the Spanish capital.
Allegri, of course, has fallen at the final hurdle twice in the last five years, and will be desperate to secure the one trophy that could further burnish his legacy in Turin. Cristiano Ronaldo's big-game nous will clearly boost Juve's chances in fixtures like this one, and the last fortnight has brought positive news on the personnel front: Mario Mandžukić is fit again, as are first-choice centre-backs Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
Old Lady's experience could tell
Atleti have an enviable home record in the Champions League: they have lost just three of 38 games on their own patch. Yet this is rated as a pick-em game by the exchange, with both teams currently available at [2.94] and the draw at [3.05].
There's good reason for this: Atleti have been pretty turgid of late, their only wins in 2019 coming against Levante, Huesca, Getafe and Rayo. They will provide the expected grit and determination, but inspiration has been lacking, and Juve have the know-how to manage threat posed by Griezmann.
At the other end, Juve are well capable of netting, with the back-post runs of Mandžukić and Ronaldo's razor edge. This could well be a cagey, slow-burn affair, especially if the home side have their way, but Juve look a good bet to avoid defeat in low-scoring game. Dutching the 0-0, 0-1, 1-1 and 0-2 scorelines looks a smart play, yielding odds of [2.18].
Ronaldo the man to watch
Ronaldo will surely relish his return to Madrid, not least because Atleti have been among the most frequent victims of his ruthlessness in front of goal. The Portuguese has netted 22 goals in 31 matches against Los Colchoneros, and is [2.6] to kick off the knockout stages with a goal.
This tool on the Sportsbook allows you to combine multiple picks on one game. Here, for instance, we could back Ronaldo to score, Juve to avoid defeat and under 2.5 goals at odds of [6.96].
Jack Lang's Champions League P/L, 2018/19
Dutch back 0-0, 0-1, 1-1 and 0-2 scorelines at [2.18]