Surprise package Leicester plots Atletico downfall

Leicester City remains a surprise guest at the top table of European football but a place in the Champions League semifinal beckons if it can overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Spanish heavyweights Atletico Madrid.

Leicester City's players at a training session at the club’s training facility.   -  REUTERS

 

Leicester City remains a surprise guest at the top table of European football but a place in the Champions League semifinal beckons if it can overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Spanish heavyweights Atletico Madrid.

The Premier League outfit has made a remarkable progression to the last eight and on Tuesday faces a side which has thrived on adversity to compete in two Champions League finals in the last three years, having made it to four successive quarterfinal.

Simeone compares Leicester to Atletico ahead of 'complex' clash

Leicester was outclassed for large parts of the first leg at a fervent Vicente Calderon Stadium but, crucially, returns to the King Power Stadium on Tuesday with its storied opponent well in their sights after Antoine Griezmann's solitary goal.

“I think they are betting everything on the second leg,” Atletico's charismatic manager Diego Simeone told reporters after a tough first encounter with the Midlands side.

“It was a hard-fought match. It's a good win for us but the second leg will be difficult. It's all still to play for.

“As for the second leg, we anticipate a fantastic English atmosphere. The tie is still 50/50. Nobody sees us already in the semi-final.”

In the last round, Craig Shakespeare's Leicester side overcame a similar 2-1 deficit against Sevilla, winning 2-0 at home in the return to set up the Atletico showdown.

Once relative Champions League unknowns, however, Atletico is now a true European giant and will provide the sternest test yet of Leicester's fairytale continental adventure.

Tactics talk

“We know we have to be more open because we need a goal and one of Atletico's plusses is their ability on the counter-attack,” Shakespeare told reporters after the defeat in Madrid.

“But we are still alive and we want to stay in the competition. I have seen enough throughout the squad. We know what we are about at the King Power and know what we need to do.

“Atletico are a very good team, their work ethic is exceptional. We are aware of that, but we are still in this tie.

“We know it is a going to be a very difficult return match, but we have very good record at the King Power.”

Atletico welcomes back striker Kevin Gameiro, who missed the first leg with hamstring problems, to the squad but is without midfielder Tiago, who returned from injury as a late substitute in Saturday's 3-0 Liga win over Osasuna but has been left out.

Atletico's Croatia defender Sime Vrsaljko and Argentina midfielder Augusto Fernandez are also missing through injury.

English champion Leicester, meanwhile, could be without several key defenders through injury and suspension.

Captain Wes Morgan has not played since the return leg with Sevilla and is doubtful, Robert Huth is suspended while Yohan Benalouane limped out of Saturday's 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace.