Atletico Madrid v Porto
First Leg: Vicente Calderon, Tuesday, February 24 2009.
Second Leg: Estadio do Drago, Wednesday, March 11 2009.
Atletico Madrid come into this matchup having just put a run of terrible form behind them. They went winless in their first seven matches of 2009, losing five Liga and Copa del Rey matches and drawing two Liga matches in a streak that cost manager Javier Aguirre his job. They were eliminated in the Copa del Rey, they fell from third place to sixth place, and they gave up 9 goals in a span of eight days to Barcelona, Valencia, and Athletic Bilbao.
They’ll hope that new manager, and former Atletico goalkeeper, Abel Resino can right the ship and salvage the season. So far, they’re off to a good start. They won Resino’s debut against Recreativo Huelva by a score of 3-0.
The cupboard isn’t bare for Atletico Madrid, as they have a number of world-class players on their squad that are capable of putting the fear of God into any other team on the planet. Diego Forlan is fourth in La Liga with 14 goals. Sergio Aguero is a tantalizing talent that has 13 goals in all competitions. They have depth in midfield with Simao, Maxi Rodriguez, and former Porto star Maniche, and they have excellent defenders in Czech captain TomáÅ¡ UjfaluÅ¡i, John Heitinga, and the speedy Luis Perea.
Their form in Europe, this season, has been very good, as they have yet to lose in the Champions League and were on the verge of a huge upset in Anfield before Stevie G “earned” Liverpool a last minute penalty that salvaged a point for them. If the Mattress Makers can get things straightened out, then they could be the team that no one wants to play.
As for Porto they’ve been a model of stability as of late. As of the 17th week of the season, they’re on a ten-match unbeaten streak in the Portuguese Liga, and are in first place. They shocked everyone by winning their group ahead of Arsenal and will be looking to prove that it was not a fluke. They have a balanced offense with four players having scored 5 or more league goals. Lucho Gonzalez, Cristian Rodriguez, and the brilliantly named Hulk each have 6, while Lisandro Lopez has 5 on the year. In Europe, Lopez has added 4 goals while Gonzalez has contributed 2.
Clearly, this is a team that doesn’t rely on one or two players, which cannot be said about the team they’re facing in this matchup. On defense, Porto have the best goal difference in their league, and will rely on Bruno Alves, Rolando, and skipper Pedro Emanuel to make sure that trend continues in the Round of 16. They’ll have their work cut out for them, though. They gave up 8 goals in 6 matches, although half those goals came in a 4-0 beatdown by Arsenal during Matchday 2.
Most eyes will be on Atletico Madrid to see if they can get their act together. If not, then you can be sure that Porto will take advantage.
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