Verdict: home win
Best odds: 3/5
The Champions League season finally starts this week, and on Wednesday night at the Wanda Metropolitano Atletico Madrid will host FC Porto in the opening round of Group B. At the same time, memories of the 2005 and 2007 finals will be refreshed with the Liverpool welcoming Milan to Anfield in the other match of the group.
Atletico Madrid broke the reign of Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spanish football at the end of 2020-21, also being the last team to have done so before, when they clinched the La Liga crown in 2014. It was an exciting match right for the finish, when the Rojiblancos needed an away win to Valladolid to secure the title. Interestingly, it was former Barcelona (and Liverpool) striker Luis Suarez who struck the decisive blow, scoring the winning goal in the 67th minute, 10 minutes after Angel Correa nullified Oscar Plano’s lead in the 18th minute.
There have been some significant transfers over the summer involving Atletico. Notably, Antoine Griezmann has returned to the club after a two-year stint at Barcelona, while midfielder Saul Niguez has arrived on loan at Chelsea. Midfielder Rodrigo de Paul arrived from Udinese, as did 22-year-old striker Matheus Cunha from Hertha Berlin.
At the moment, Atletico are in third place in La Liga with 10 points from four games, the same score as Real Madrid and Valencia occupying the top two places. Real Sociedad is fourth with nine.
Diego Simeone’s team started the season by beating Celta Vigo 1-2 away. They then beat Elche 1-0 at home and played their only draw, 2-2 at home to Europa League holders Villarreal, before winning 1-2 away against Espanyol.
Simeone has no problems with injuries at the moment, but defender Stefan Savic is disqualified due to the red card he received and the foul language he allegedly used towards a referee in the loss to Chelsea in last season’s round of 16.
Thomas Lemar could start this match after a good performance in the second half of the win over Espanyol. Jose Gimenez is likely to come into formation in place of Savic in the rear, with Griezmann and Suarez the obvious choice up front.
Meanwhile, Porto finished second in the Primeira Liga last season, five points behind champions Sporting Lisbon. They will certainly be looking to regain the title this season, but at the moment they are in fourth place with 11 points in five games to their name. Benfica (15), Estoril Praia (13) and Sporting (also 11) are all in the lead.
Sergio Conceicao’s side started the league with a 2-0 home win over B-SAD, followed by a 1-2 away win against Famalicao. They then drew 1-1 at Maritimo and beat Arouca 3-0 at home, before drawing 2-2 in a very exciting match against Sporting in Lisbon, in which Luis Diaz nullified Nuno Santos’ lead. and striker Toni Martinez picked up a late red card.
This summer Porto signed winger Pepe from Gremio, midfielder Marko Grujic on loan from Liverpool with option to buy, left-back Wendell from Bayer Leverkusen, midfielder Bruno Costa from Portimonense and central defender Fabio Cardoso from Santa Clara.
Midfielder Danilo Perreira left to join Paris Saint-Germain and striker Moussa Marega took advantage of the expiration of his contract to join Saudi side Hilal.
Porto took one step further than Atletico in the last edition of the UEFA elite club competition, even though they were eliminated in the quarter-finals by the same opponent, Chelsea, the future winner.
Out the goalkeeper Marchesin, operated on for a serious knee problem, which nails the 21-year-old Diogo Costa to the owner.
Left-back Zaidu played his first two games of the season but was then heavily chased by Fenerbahce and Porto reportedly blocked his move to Turkey on Deadline Day. He has not played since and it remains to be seen if he will be included in the list. of those called up for the trip to Madrid.
It will most likely depend on Otavio, who was tied to Liverpool at one point during the summer, but the Merseysiders have never followed up on the reported interest. The 26-year-old should pull the strings of the Portuguese side from his position as central attacking midfielder.
Mehdi Taremi, with one goal and one assist in five games this season so far, is ready to lead the line again.
With all due respect for Porto, he risks finding himself facing a too formidable opponent at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Verdict: home win
Best odds: 3/5