RB Leipzig vs Atletico Madrid | Thursday 13th August 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
RB Leipzig and Atletico Madrid continue their pursuit of their first ever Champions League trophy wins as they head to Portugal to meet in a an evenly-matched quarter-final tie.
Lisbon is the backdrop for the first ever fixture between these two sides who both enjoyed steady seasons to finish third in their respective leagues. It’s not how either would have envisaged playing out the next part of their European journey after knocking out last year’s finalists Tottenham and Liverpool but a neutral venue and one game shootout could just suit both with they way they set-up.
Leipzig, in their current ‘Red Bull’ guise, were only formed in 2009 so have had a remarkable journey to get to the final stages of such an elite competition. Rising through the German leagues with significant financial backing and at the envy of all that stood in their way, they seem to have adopted the ‘no one likes us, we don’t care’ approach to going about their rather effective business.
Attendances are 19 times higher than their debut season and the team possess some fantastic talent as well as an ambitious and well respected young coach in Julian Nagelsmann, who recently revealed he turned down the chance to manage Real Madrid to continue to build his reputation in Germany.
Nagelsmann can certainly take much of the credit for a decent on-field performance over the season but also for some smart additions to the squad which have helped with a lack of strength in depth which held Die Rotten Bullen back in recent years.
Dani Olmo and Christopher Nkunku will be important players for years to come, as long as the club can swat away undoubted future interest in their best players from the big guns in the Premier League and the likes of Bayern Munich to continue to improve.
Such success over a short space casts prying eyes in your direction and Leipzig’s management structure know that they need to keep their nerve to avoid one or two sales becoming a natural trend each summer, with Timo Werner the first high profile loss to Chelsea just a few weeks ago.
Werner’s absence for the remainder of the Champions League campaign is a blow and Nagelsmann needs to find a way to adapt without 34 of the team’s 105 goals this season but this team has goals all over the pitch due to their attack minded approach so can hurt Atletico if they use the ball well.
They will be coming up against arguably the best defence in Europe though – Atleti conceding just 27 goals in their La Liga matches and dealing relatively well with the loss of Diego Godin to Inter last year after nine incredible years of service.
Manager Diego Simeone has pulled off plenty of tactical masterclasses over the years to reach two Champions League finals and would give anything to go one further this time around and win the competition. Being in the top half of the draw, this could well be the Red & Whites’ best chance for a long time, particularly with city rivals Real knocked out and therefore unable to pile more misery on Los Colchoneros fans.
Atleti were rocked by the news in the past week of two positive COVID-19 tests in their camp, with Angel Correa and Sime Vrsaljko now isolating at home. Although neither were likely to start in this contest, it has added extra complications to Simeone’s plans and he will have worked hard to ensure the focus of his players is not distracted in any way ahead of such a crucial fixture.
The betting angles
On the outrights here, the draw has to be a lean. You’d perhaps give Atleti the edge with their defensive nous, experience at this stage of the Champions League and with Leipzig losing Werner but the sides have shared 38 draws between them in all competitions, so the 11/5 price for yet another in 90 minutes could appeal to many.
My three bets for this game instead will stay away from calling out a team to progress however and focus on the fouls, penalty and prop markets.
Something I picked up on when watching a lot of the Bundesliga during the early stages of football’s restart was how often Leipzig were getting fouled as a team, especially when they played with two wing-backs in (usually) Angelino – who has extended his loan from Manchester City for the final match/es of the season – and Nordi Mukiele very direct in their running down both flanks.
As we know, Atleti are a very physical team and have conceded 14 or more free-kicks in their last nine matches so over 13.5 Leipzig free-kicks will form part of a treble using Bet365’s Bet Builder.
The other two elements of the bet are each team to receive Over 0 Cards in the game. It’s occurred for Leipzig in 20 of their last 23 matches, I guess not surprising given how aggressive they are off the ball. The likes of Olmo, Laimer and Sabitzer are tough in the challenge and against an Aleti team that will deploy all kinds of dark arts to get through, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to seem them awarded a card or two.
Madrid themselves have been handed at least one card in 47 of their 49 games in all competitions in 2019/20 and backed up by their foul numbers as I previously suggested, along with a card happy referee in Pole Szymon Marciniak in charge (4.85 cards per-game), a few players could see their name taken in the book.
In addition, Atleti are caught offside very regularly which only adds to the free-kick tally and that could be easily repeated here against Leipzig’s high defensive line. The Bet Builder is priced at even money and I like the look of that given the feisty looking nature of the fixture.
In mentioning referee Marciniak, it’s hard to look away from his penalty record over his career but in particular this season. Over his many years reffing, he’s given 0.43 penalties per match and that rises to 0.62 in 2019/20 with 25 awarded in 40 matches officiated – including five in seven European games.
The 5/2 for a spot kick, again with Bet365, to be given here therefore looks a bit of value. We’ve seen plenty of them awarded in the past couple of weeks in the Europa and Champions League with the controversial VAR playing its part quite often.
The odds suggest a 28% chance of this landing which simply doesn’t tie up with this referee’s record, as well as the fact that the teams have been awarded six across their Champions League matches. I’d perhaps avoid the ‘team to score a penalty’ or ‘player to score a penalty’ markets though, with regular Leipzig taker Werner now sold, Forsberg maybe not starting and Alteti’s record at converting them patchy at times.
My final selection is one at a price I simply couldn’t ignore given the frequency at which it lands and the tough midfield battle I’m envisaging. Thomas Partey is evens with Pokerstars to have three or more successful tackles in the game, a marker he has hit in his last seven Champions League games.
The Ghanaian seems to love the big occasion and in Atleti’s flat 4-4-2 system, central midfield tackles are a common feature. Simeone would expect nothing less and with the team’s strikers less aggressive in their pressing, the responsibility for the first line of defence often falls to the midfield four. I’m going to have a 2 point play given the odds available.
I’m expecting a tie where Leipzig have most of the ball and try and break a stubborn Spanish side down with Die Rotten needing someone to step out of Werner’s shadow to make the difference. Whether that comes remains to be seen, but it’ll be a fascinating tactical contest nonetheless.