Atletico Madrid v PSV
Wednesday March 16, 6:45am
Another La Liga title will elude them with Barcelona eight points clear and in excellent form, but Atletico Madrid are looking good for a second top-two finish in three seasons, which is two more than in the previous 17 campaigns combined.
They are four points ahead of Real Madrid back home having taken four points from them in head-to-head combat yet must surely fear – as in the last two terms when they lost a Champions League final to them on penalties and a quarter-final 1-0 – that their neighbours will again outshine them in Europe.
While the ten-time European champions brushed Roma aside 4-0 on aggregate, Atletico are still stuck on 0-0 halfway through their double header with PSV, the second part of which they must tackle without Stefan Savic and Tiago Mendes.
The Dutch title holders waited seven years for this crack at the Champions League tournament proper and, whatever happens at the Vicente Calderon, they are unlikely to exit with regrets about not taking their opportunity.
They outperformed Manchester United and CSKA Moscow to become the first Eredivisie club in nine years to reach the knockout stage and then ensured that they arrived in the Spanish capital with progress obtainable by earning a goalless draw from the initial 90 minutes.
Phillip Cocu’s men aren’t quite at full strength though, with Gaston Pereiro suspended and Andres Guardado and Maxime Lestienne both doubts.
Whereas Atletico Madrid prefaced this encounter with a fourth successive La Liga win and sixth in seven, PSV dropped points for the first time in 11 Eredivisie outings and did so at home to bottom-half side Heerenveen.
Admittedly, it didn’t do much domestic damage as their pursuers Ajax were also held in front of their fans, but it did drain them of momentum ahead of what was already a fiendishly difficult task.
There is no doubt that their Philips Stadion performances saw them through Group B, with nine of their ten points collected as hosts and the sole away point coming courtesy of a 0-0 draw. They will need to score on this road trip to make the quarter-finals, unless they are to cling on for penalties.
Atletico Madrid have won 12 in 15 at the Calderon and haven’t lost there in the league or Europe since September, which is why they are rated 1.32 favourites.
Atletico Madrid Clean Sheet
The Colchoneros are very impressive at keeping clean sheets on their travels, delivering six in their last eight away days, yet even those outstanding figures pale compared to what they are capable of defensively in their own arena.
They have shut out three visitors in a row in all competitions and seven of their most recent nine, and somehow, some way, they are even better at silencing opponents on the toughest stage of them all, the Champions League.
A remarkable nine of their past ten guests were locked out, including a more incredible still four consecutive knockout-round foes.
They have been breached once in their latest five continental contests at all venues too, and that was a consolation when 2-0 up at Benfica earlier this season, so they are well worthy of their 1.65 odds to add another to the long list. Those feeling a little bolder can take the win to nil at 1.85.
PSV fired blanks in their last two Champions League trips abroad.