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European Football Preview: Atleti and Lyon's Champions League focus

Diego Simeone
Simeone has Juve on his mind

Fresh from tipping Ajax to beat Real Madrid and Porto to qualify in midweek, James Horncastle returns with a look at the best bets from across Spain, France and Italy...

This week's events will also have sharpened Atleti's focus.

One eye on Juve

Atletico Madrid v Leganes
Saturday, 15:15
Live on Betfair Live Video

Now seven points off the top in La Liga, Atleti's mind is likely to be on Tuesday night's Champions League trip to Turin. Particularly as the final is at the Wanda Metropolitano in May.

This week's events will also have sharpened Atleti's focus. Ajax, Porto and Manchester United all came back from first leg defeats to book their places in the quarter-finals, a reminder not to take qualification for granted despite a 2-0 win against Juventus two weeks ago.

Leganes should not pose Atleti too many problems on Saturday. Safe in midtable the Cucumber Growers have won only twice on the road this season and both came against teams battling relegation. Mauricio Pellegrino is restoring the reputation he built at Alaves, bouncing back from his dismissal from Southampton. A raft of suspensions complicate matters for him this weekend.

But Atleti are short on personnel too. Both Diego Simeone's left-backs Lucas Hernandes and Filipe Luis are out injured which may necessitate Juanfran swapping flanks. Diego Godin and Koke are also serving bans but, even in the event Leganes breach a makeshift rearguard composed of Stefan Savic and Jose Gimenez, you can bet they will still have their work cut out beating the world's best shot stopper, Jan Oblak. Atleti have recorded five clean sheets in six against Leganes.

Back the Mattress Makers to win to nil @ [2.02] before they fly off to Italy.

Lyon mustn't underestimate Strasbourg

Strasbourg v Lyon
Saturday, 16:00
Live on Betfair Live Video

On the face of it, things could be tougher for Lyon before they head Barcelona in midweek. Strasbourg are under no threat of relegation despite a winless run stretching to five games. Nevertheless Bruno Genesio's side will be wary of what awaits them at the Stade de la Meinau. Lyon lost here last season and were dumped out of the Coupe de la Ligue by the same opponent in January.

Underestimating Strasbourg is risky business and Genesio must strike the right balance especially as Lille are pulling away from his side and Marseille are beginning to close in. A defeat this weekend would also have the potential to plant a seed of doubt in a team that can eliminate Barcelona with a score draw at the Camp Nou.

Still, it seems Genesio is inclined to rest Nabil Fekir and Houssem Aouar with Wednesday in mind. Strasbourg have held PSG and Lille to 1-1 draws at the Meinau this season and the same scoreline can be found on the Exchange @ [8].

Thierry Laurey's defence will be stiffer now Pablo Martinez is back from suspension, shoring up a team that has successfully brought bigger, more expensively assembled opponents down to a level where they can make life difficult for them. Back Strasbourg on Double Chance @ [2.08].

Strasbourg on Double Chance @ [2.08]

Europe passes through Genova

Sampdoria v Atalanta
Sunday, 14:00
Live on Betfair Live Video

This should be a cracking game between two sides who consider each other rivals for a place in Europe next season. Atalanta were threatening to compete for the Champions League until recently but grew distracted by the first leg of their cup semi-final.

Now that it's out the way they can turn their focus back to the league, especially since the second leg isn't until the end of April. Atalanta practically eliminated one rival for Europe out of the running last weekend with a fine win against Fiorentina in Bergamo. This weekend they can make a major dent in Sampdoria's ambitions and put five points between them in the table.

But the Blucerchiati are back in-form and Fabio Quagliarella is the league's top scorer, the veteran striker hitting the post and the bar after finding the net twice in Ferrara last weekend. Marco Giampaolo's side are formidable at Marassi and will back themselves on Sunday, particularly in light of their recent history in this fixture.

Samp have won the last three encounters with Atalanta and possess the skill and passing ability to elude the famed Gian Piero Gasperini press. They are also one of Serie A's most clinical sides and continue to win penalties with quick interplay around the penalty area.

With that in mind Atalanta must be careful that one of their strengths - a rough-and-tumble physical approach - is not turned into a weekend. The Dea don't fear anyone and, as the league's second most prolific side, will be confident of coming away with something on Sunday. Josip Ilicic and Papu Gomez are playing some of their best football at the moment and if Duvan Zapata - the former Samp striker - can catch fire in the same way he did through December and January then Samp's highly rated goalkeeper Emil Audero and centre-back Joachim Andersen will have to be at the top of their game. I fancy Atalanta @ [2.16].

James Horncastle,

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