In-form Atletico eyeing round-of-16


Wed, Nov 06, 2013 - Page 19

In-form Atletico Madrid can seal their place in the round-of-16 of the UEFA Champions League when they host FK Austria Vienna at the Vicente Calderon in Madrid today.

One defeat in 17 games in all competitions this season sees Atletico trail Barcelona by just a point at the top of La Liga, but their cruise through Group G has arguably been even more impressive on their return to the competition for the first time in four years.

An opening day victory at home to Zenit St Petersburg has been followed up by impressive wins on the road at Porto and in Austria two weeks ago, to leave Diego Simeone’s men needing just one win from their final three games to seal their passage into the knockout stage.

The visitors’ 3-0 win in Vienna was marked by a stunning performance from Diego Costa on his Champions League debut, having been suspended for the opening two games of the campaign.

Costa scored twice, including one superb solo effort as he ran half the length of the pitch to slot home, and he has continued his rampant scoring form in recent weeks to take his tally to 15 goals in as many games this season.

Atletico defender Diego Godin hailed the partnership Costa and David Villa have struck up since the latter arrived to fill the considerable gap left by the departure of Radamel Falcao to AS Monaco in June.

“They have started the season very well in both La Liga and the Champions League,” Godin said. “Hopefully, they will continue in this form because they are two fundamental players and key to the overall functioning of the team.”

Both frontmen will be out to impress today with Vicente del Bosque set to announce his Spain squad tomorrow for the international friendly against South Africa later this month.

Playmaker Arda Turan remains the only major absentee for Atletico, so either Adrian Lopez or teenage sensation Oliver Torres are expected to be handed their first Champions League start.

With just one point from their opening three group games, Vienna almost certainly need to take something from their visit to the Spanish capital if they are to keep their hopes alive of reaching the knockout stages in what is the first time they have qualified for the group stage.

Coach Nenad Bjelica will have to watch the match from the stands after being sent off in the meeting between the two sides two weeks ago.

However, the Violets did get their domestic campaign back on track with a much needed 3-0 win over SC Wiener Neustadt on Sunday to move up to fifth in the Austrian Bundesliga.