Saturday 29 April 2017

Leicester face Cinderella battle with Atletico

Two Champions League finals in the past three seasons show what formidable cup campaigners Atletico are and Simeone has made it his mission to win this competition. Photo: Reuters/Denis Balibouse
Two Champions League finals in the past three seasons show what formidable cup campaigners Atletico are and Simeone has made it his mission to win this competition. Photo: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

Jason Burt

Leicester City will face Atletico Madrid - the team who 'did a Leicester' before them - in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Atletico, and their coach Diego Simeone, are likely to be much more dangerous, obdurate and wily opponents than Sevilla were with players such as Antoine Griezmann, Diego Godin, Koke and Gabi in their ranks.

Two Champions League finals in the past three seasons show what formidable cup campaigners Atletico are and Simeone has made it his mission to win this competition.

Atletico won the Spanish title in 2014 against the odds, overcoming both Real Madrid and Barcelona, while playing 4-4-2 and counter-attacking football.

And, although they have not come from nowhere in the way that Leicester did - it was Atletico's 10th title to Leicester's first last season - there are Cinderella similarities.

"Facing a team who have reached the final in two of the last three seasons is a massive challenge but it's just the kind of tie you expect in the quarter-finals of the Champions League," said Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare.

"Atletico are a very good team with some fantastic individuals with experience in the competition, but we'll be ready to give everything to progress."

Shakespeare said that Leicester would take the same front-foot, aggressive approach that put paid to Sevilla.

"That's what we hope. That is what is expected," he explained. "We are at our best when we do that. You saw results in terms of the performances against Liverpool and Hull, and now Sevilla. The players think that's when they are at their best so that's what we'll encourage them to do.

"It will be a brilliant occasion for our supporters and for everyone at the club, but before the players can begin to think about these games, we have Premier League matches to come that are of huge significance to our season."

The first leg will be on April 12 at the cauldron that is the Vicente Calderon, with Atletico moving to their new home this summer.

Atletico will have to face Real Madrid, away from home, four days before the first leg and, although the Champions League is their priority, they cannot afford to play a weakened team in a Madrid derby.

Controversy

The second leg takes place at the King Power Stadium six days later on April 18.

There is history between the two clubs and also controversy with Leicester having faced Atletico twice before, which is remarkable given their limited involvement in European competition having taken part only three times previously.

Their first meeting came in the first round of the Cup Winners' Cup in 1961 and they met again in the Uefa Cup first round in 1997, Leicester losing both times.

That latter tie has already provoked talk of Leicester wanting revenge given referee Remi Harrel sent off Garry Parker in the second leg at Filbert Street when the game was in the balance.

It eventually finished 4-1 on aggregate to Atletico who, ominously, have never lost in Europe to an English side (won five, drawn five).

Elsewhere in the draw, four of the competition's favourites were drawn together.

Real Madrid, the current holders, will face Arsenal's conquerors Bayern Munich in the last-eight.

Barcelona's remarkable comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round has led to a repeat of the 2015 final, with Luis Enrique's side set to play Juventus.

In the one remaining tie, Borussia Dortmund will come up against French dark horses Monaco, who knocked Pep Guardiola's Manchester City out of the last 16. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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