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Leicester City vs Atletico Madrid - Tuesday 18th April 2017 - 7:45pm

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Moment of truth for Leicester's dream



The first leg was settled by one controversial decision. Antoine Griezmann, fouled outside the area, picked himself up to coolly dispatch the wrongly awarded penalty. Overall, Atletico deserved the narrow victory but Leicester’s second half display offers them hope for this second leg.

A more critical decision might be the yellow card shown to a Robert Huth. The influential centre back has been impressive during this European adventure but misses this match through suspension. It puts a lot more pressure on the back four.

History is not on the Foxes side; this is the fifth time the two sides have met and Atletico have won them four, with a solitary 1 – 1 draw at Filbert Street in 1961 the only time Leicester have avoided defeat.

Can they do it? They can dream but Atletico are past masters at seeing ties out. It's going to be tough and an evening when nerves are shredded every time the Spaniards have the ball.

LEICESTER CITY

Leicester responded to last week’s back-to-back defeats with a mixed performance at Selhurst Park. Craig Shakespeare will be pleased that they established a 2 – 0 lead over Crystal Palace but concerned by the final score of 2 – 2. Such laxness against Atletico will surely be punished.

The biggest dilemma facing Shakespeare is Robert Huth’s suspension. The German has been immense for the Foxes since joining from Stoke City in 2015. Influential captain Wes Morgan didn't make Saturday's squad for the draw in South London and the Leicester manager is sweating on his fitness.

Having instilled belief in the squad since taking over, the task for Shakespeare is to channel the sense of injustice at the wrongly awarded penalty in the Vincent Calderon. He needs a repeat of the never say die attitude which carried them the last round against Sevilla.

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Outplayed for portions of the game, Leicester didn't capitulate and in the end, were good value for the aggregate win. Not scoring in Madrid is a headache; needing two goals to win will prove tricky enough against a side as defensively obdurate as Atletico but needing three or more if Simeone’s men score? That's when the dream becomes a nightmare.

Not least because Jamie Vardy has struggled in the Champions League this season. The England international has needed 2.3 shots per goal and asking Atletico to give up that many opportunities is a tall order. It needs the Foxes midfield to step up to the goalscoring plate if the Premier League’s last representatives are to make it to the last four.

ATLETICO MADRID

Diego Simeone saw  his team cruise past Osasuna at the weekend. Despite missing two spot kicks, Atletico’s  3 – 0 win tightened their grip on third place in La Liga. The Argentine rested several players, including Wednesday night’s match winner, Antione Griezmann.

After the win over Leicester, he refused to claim the tie was over although he feels the English side put all their eggs in the basket of still being in with a chance of reaching the semi-finals by winning the Home leg.

It will be tough. Simeone has drilled his players in the art of defending a slender lead as Barcelona and Bayern Munich have found out in recent years. Mixing a similarly tough approach to the game as Leicester but with more style and better technique, he has been able to gel a squad which is as adept at frustrating teams as they are in hitting them on the counter-attack.

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As much as the focus is on the prodigious talents of Griezmann, Carrasco and Saul, the defensive quality Simeone has at his disposal is formidable. Little wonder there is speculation linking Jan Oblak with a move to a bigger club this summer when he routinely turns in outstanding performances in goal.

While Leicester have a good record at home, Atletico are excellent away from home and used to dealing with the pressure of the big occasion. Little wonder they are favourites to reach the last four.

FORM (Last six games)

Leicester City - WWWLLD
Atletico Madrid - WWWDWW

STATS

  • Leicester have conceded less than 1.5 goals in their last six home games.
  • Atletico Madrid have lost 6 of their last 21 Champions League away matches, all by a single goal margin.
  • Leicester have scored 2 or more goals in their last five home games.
  • Atletico have not lost a European tie where they won the first leg at home 1 – 0, since 1993/94 when OFI Crete eliminated them.
  • Leicester have won all four of their Champions League home matches this season.

CURRENT MATCH ODDS (BEST PRICED ODDS)

Leicester City: 27/10 with CoralBet Here!

Draw: 9/4 with Paddy PowerBet Here!

Atletico Madrid: 23/20 with CoralBet Here!

HEAD TO HEAD

Last six meetings

11.09.2017    ECL             Atletico Madrid      1-0    Leicester City
16.09.1997    UEFA Cup    Atletico Madrid       2-1    Leicester City    
30.09.1997    UEFA Cup    Leicester City        0-2    Atletico Madrid
25.10.1961    ECWC         Leicester City        1-1    Atletico Madrid    
15.11.1961    ECWC         Atletico Madrid      2-0    Leicester City

SUMMING UP!

The biggest obstacle to Leicester’s progress is not scoring an away goal. Needing to win by two goals is going to be tough but they did just that in the last round. More to the point, they keep surprising us in the Champions League, so why not believe the seemingly impossible can happen.

Atletico are nobody's fools though. Two Champions League finals in three seasons underlines they know all about winning this kind of match. While Bayer Leverkusen were able to score twice against Atletico, they left their themselves wide open in the counter and were duly punished.

That's Leicester's biggest problem. While they kept Atletico at bay in the second, they did do by forsaking their sense of adventure. This time, they have to be more attack-minded which could leave them vulnerable at the back.

That said, if Christian Fuchs gets the chance to hurl in a few long throws, even the best organised defence will struggle.

It's not cut and dried but it will be a surprise if Atletico don't win, and comfortably so.

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Stuart is a freelance writer and well-known Arsenal blogger, writing A Cultured Left Foot since 2006. As well as football, he regularly writes about cricket, tennis, rugby, baseball and American football.

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