Atletico looking to rebound when Juventus visits
MADRID (AP) — Coach Diego Simeone is back on Atletico Madrid’s sideline, and with a little insight of Juventus for their Champions League match on Wednesday.
The ever-energetic Simeone served out a one-match ban while his side lost its Group A opener at Olympiakos 3-2.
Simeone played eight seasons in the Serie A, where his record against Juventus was four wins to just one loss.
Malmo hosts Olympiakos in the other group match. Here are some things to watch for:
JUVE INVICTUS: Juventus has a perfect record in all competitions so far, and a seeming invincibility at the back.
The Italian side has won all six of its matches without conceding. Moreover, it hasn’t let in a goal since April — a run of 10 matches.
Much of that credit goes to captain Gianluigi Buffon, the evergreen goalkeeper who again starred at the weekend in saving a penalty in a 3-0 win at Atalanta.
A shaky spell last year had some people proclaiming he was a spent gladiator, but the 36-year-old Buffon is forcing his critics to eat their words.
“The difference between Gigi and other goalkeepers is fundamental,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “He might only have to face one shot a game and he manages to be decisive. That is the difference between champions and normal players.”
THE BOSS IS BACK: The return of Simeone, seen fretting in the stands during the first game due to suspension, will boost Atletico.
The coach has a commanding presence, particularly at Vicente Calderon Stadium, where he is seemingly capable of lifting his side to victory and orchestrating the fans’ cheers to daunting effect.
After also missing the first five matches of La Liga as punishment for an unruly outburst in the Spanish Super Cup, Simeone was on the touchline at the weekend to oversee the Spanish defending champion rout Sevilla 4-0.
With striker Mario Mandzukic back, albeit wearing a large protective face mask after surgery for a broken nose, Simeone will be looking to get his team back on track in a competition in which they lost to Real Madrid in the final last season.
TREMENDOUS TEVEZ: Carlos Tevez is in fantastic form, and ending his goal drought in the Champions League will take some pressure off him at Vicente Calderon.
Tevez scored twice in Juve’s 2-0 win against Malmo, his first goal in the Champions League since April 2009.
The rugged Argentine also scored twice last weekend in the Serie A, to take his total to six in all competitions.
“Let’s wait and see,” he said, when asked if he can score in Madrid. “We hope to have a good game. That’s what we want for our fans. We have a good defense and we know we can do well.”
Confidence was dented at Olympiakos after the Greek champion suffered its first defeat in the Greek league on Saturday, 1-0 at Atromitos.
Coach Michel Gonzalez pulled off a 3-2 win against Atletico two weeks ago with his revamped squad showing a surprising degree of cohesion.
But the Spanish manager appeared frustrated that squad members could let their performance slip against an opponent which appeared weaker on paper.
“If someone wearing the Olympiakos shirt needs to check who his opponent is to gain motivation, that is a worry,” he said.
Gonzalez said he expects to stick with most starters in the Atletico match at Malmo New Stadium on Wednesday, and is likely to include Jimmy Durmaz, the Swedish midfielder who played four seasons at Malmo.
Olympiakos travels to Sweden without injured midfielders David Fuster, Gevorg Ghazaryan, and Mathieu Dossevi.
BEST CHANCE: Champions League debutant Malmo considers the home match against Olympiakos as its best chance of a victory in Group A.
However, there are some injury worries for the Swedish club, which reached the final in 1979 when the tournament was called the European Cup, and hasn’t appeared in the group stage since the Champions League was introduced in the early 1990s.
Midfielder Markus Halsti missed a Swedish league match on Saturday due to a groin injury and remains in doubt. Also, winger Simon Kroon injured a foot in training on Monday and is undergoing tests.
Meanwhile, Brazilian fullback Ricardinho and midfielder Simon Thern, son of former Sweden captain Jonas Thern, are back in the squad after extended injury breaks.
Associated Press writers Daniela Matar in Rome; Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Greece and Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed.