Champions League

Atleti must end goal drought

2015-03-16 13:12
Antoine Griezmann (Supplied)

Madrid - Atletico Madrid will need to put an end to a recent goal drought if they are to have any chance of overturning a 1-0 deficit in Tuesday's Champions League last 16, second leg at home to Bayer Leverkusen.

Atletico, last season's beaten finalists, have only scored once in their last four outings in all competitions and slipped nine points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona after Saturday's 0-0 stalemate at Espanyol.

Their chances of beating Espanyol were hampered by the dismissal of centre back Miranda shortly before halftime, Atletico's third red card in their last five matches, which prompted coach Diego Simeone to replace forward Fernando Torres with defender Jose Gimenez.

Forwards Mario Mandzukic, Antoine Griezmann and Torres have been off colour in recent weeks and Atletico have failed to score in three consecutive away games in La Liga for the first time since Simeone took over at the end of 2011.

Leverkusen, by contrast, have rattled in 11 goals without reply in winning their last five games in all competitions, including Friday's 4-0 drubbing of VfB Stuttgart.

"(Not conceding) of course gives you more confidence for the following matches, above all for Tuesday, and we wouldn't complain if it could last another few games," Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno said on the club's website (www.bayer04.de) on Friday.

Atletico midfielder Tiago, who is suspended after his red card in the first leg along with centre back Diego Godin, said he was sure the goals would start to flow again for the Spanish champions.

"The team looked strong even when we were playing with 10," the Portuguese told reporters.

"We had clear chances and it's true that we didn't put them away but I see a team that is sure of itself and in good shape.

"We know our strengths. We have to keep trying so that the goals and the victories come."

Although Atletico have only won a European tie twice before after losing the first leg away 1-0, their home form suggests they have a good chance of pulling it off against Leverkusen.

Looking to reach the quarter-finals of Europe's elite club competition for a seventh time, Atletico have won 20 of their last 22 European matches at the Calderon.

Their only defeat was a 2-0 reverse to Rubin Kazan in the Europa League last 32 in February 2013.

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