Atletico Madrid will try to reach the semifinals for the fourth time in seven years as the Spanish side takes on RB Leipzig in the second Champions League quarterfinal.
Atletico comes into the match as a slight favorite, but must contend with a difficult opponent and the sudden appearance of positive COVID-19 tests within its own camp.
Correa, Vrsjalko Returns Possible for Semifinals
Forward Angel Correa and defender Sime Vrsjalko both tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week and are isolating at home. The rest of Atletico traveled to Lisbon a day later because of those results. Correa and Vrsjalko will take further tests on Thursday in the hope that they might be available if Atletico reaches the semifinals.
“It’s something new for everyone, it’s a difficult situation all around the world, but we’re professionals,” goalkeeper Jan Oblak told reporters. “We’ve come here to play and we’ve got a very important game, and so we’re not thinking about anything else other than the game. What happens on Thursday is all that counts.”
While many soccer fans may think little of Atletico compared to Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona, the club has been one of the most successful Champions League sides over the past decade. Atletico reached the final of the competition in both 2014 and 2016, both times losing to Real Madrid – once in extra time, and once via penalties.
That pedigree has made Atletico the favorite heading into Thursday’s match, with FanDuel Sportsbook listing the Spanish side as a -148 pick over Leipzig (+106). But Oblak says the match could easily go either way.
“We’re surprised that people think of us as favorites,” Oblak said. “We’re expecting a very difficult game and I don’t think anyone is the favorite here, anything can happen in one match.”
Nagelsmann: Leipzig Benefits from Champions League Format
Typically, teams play two matches, one home and one away, to determine an aggregate winner during the Champions League knockout stage, at least until the final. But the restructured tournament features single-elimination matches from the quarterfinals on, with teams playing all of the remaining games in Lisbon.
While that format could inject a little more randomness into the remaining ties, RB Leipzig manager Julian Nagelsmann says it suits his team just fine.
“They have a lot of experience over two legs, but anything can happen in just one game,” Nagelsmann told the media. “We will all be thrown into cold water because of this situation.”
The winner of the Atletico vs. Leipzig match will take on Paris Saint-Germain in the semifinals. PSG found itself on the verge of elimination after 89 minutes on Wednesday, as Atalanta took a 1-0 lead on a 26th-minute goal by Mario Pasalic.
Two Late Goals Send PSG Through
The Italian side held that advantage until the 90th minute. But a goal by Marquinhos in the final seconds of regular time, then a second by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting in stoppage time, propelled PSG to a comeback win.
“When I came on, I thought to myself, ‘We can’t lose, we can’t go home like that,’” Choupo-Moting said after the match. “It was a crazy game, a tough game and opponents.”