LINE: RB Leipzig +280 | Draw +205 | Atletico Madrid +120
KICK OFF: Thursday, August 13th, 3PM EST
WHERE: Estadio do Sport, Lisbon, Portugal
WATCH: CBS Sports / app in US
The biggest question when Atlético Madrid meets Red Bull Leipzig on Thursday at 3 p.m. is how RBL will generate offense without Timo Werner.
But that’s not the only interesting aspect of the matchup, though I am on the record picking the La Liga side in this one.
*Note: This is admittedly going to be Atleti-heavy.
Is this version of Atleti good enough to reach or win the whole thing?
When Atlético Madrid shocked Liverpool in the round of 16, it was the last thing anyone expected due to Los Rojiblancos’ form at that time.
probably definitely wouldn’t have happened with a healthy Alisson manning Liverpool’s goal. It was, however, still an impressive/puzzling accomplishment by Atleti.
Looking back now, we can see that both legs vs. the Reds came at the start of a long run of good form. After losing to the likes of Eibar and Cultural Leonesa (Copa del Rey) and drawing Leganes in January, something clicked for these guys in February. The pandemic was obviously a factor, but it’s pretty staggering that Diego Simeone’s team has not lost since it succumbed to Real Madrid 1-0 on February 1. That includes the UCL wins over Liverpool on February 18 and March 11, and a run of seven wins and four draws in 11 post-pandemic matches.
There are a few reasons to fear Atleti right now, starting with that perennially tough defense. Their UCL track record under Simeone is also impressive, and they *whispers* seemingly have some offense. Marcos Llorente has been a huge pleasant surprise since moving into more of an attacking role, and Álvaro Morata has been the scoring threat his team needs him to be with 12 goals in La Liga. Atleti also benefits from its depth, as five players had at least five goals in domestic play. That’s not a head-turning amount of goal scoring, but when this team is on, it doesn’t take much.
Will the biggest star on the pitch shine in his home country?
João Félix did not enjoy the season he hoped for when he landed in the Spanish capital last summer. With six goals and an assist in 27 La Liga appearances (21 starts), he had a few tantalizing moments, but is yet to fully live up to the hype.
It’s not hard to imagine him stepping forward in a big way in his home country, though. This storyline would be a lot better if these games were going to be played in front of fans, but Atleti’s No. 7 still has a golden opportunity for a storybook finish to his first season in Madrid.
How much will Atleti miss Thomas Partey?
When Thomas Partey was injured in his team’s La Liga finale vs. Real Sociedad, their midfield took a massive hit. Partey has been great all season, and he’s an excellent example of the adage that there’s more to the sport than basic stats – he tallied just three goals and no assists in La Liga. Any fan of Liverpool or Atleti’s Spanish rivals will tell you about the impact he has when healthy. His WhoScored ratings of 7.08 for his play in La Liga and 7.55 in the Champions League also speak for themselves.
There seems to be optimism that he might be recovered in time for a semifinal game next week, if his team makes it that far, making his status worth monitoring.
Who picks up the slack for Red Bull Leipzig?
As we, and every outlet with any interest in this game, have pointed out, the absence of Timo Werner makes RBL a different team. With a ridiculous 28 goals and eight assists this year, there was a reason he was so coveted ahead of his move to Chelsea. Any time a team has one player with those kinds of numbers, it’s fair to wonder what they’re capable of without him.
Werner’s now-former teammates will be intent on showing their success in the Bundesliga was not solely thanks to the German. All eyes will be on 24-year-old Patrik Schick (10 goals, 2 assists) and 26-year-old Marcel Sabitzer (9 goals, 7 assists). One other player to watch is 22-year-old midfielder Christopher Nkunku, who piled up 13 assists and five goals to put himself on the map.