Atletico Madrid and Benfica are both looking to turn around small first-leg deficits in their Champions League quarter-final home matches on Wednesday, and in the process blow the competition wide open.
Atletico go into the return leg against reigning champions Barcelona at the Vicente Calderon 2-1 down, while Benfica welcome German champions Bayern Munich to Lisbon after an opening 1-0 defeat.
Fernando Torres’ red card and a Luis Suarez brace turned the all-Spanish tie on its head, although the Torres away goal keeps Atletico well in contention for a semi-final spot.
Diego Simeone’s Los Rojiblancos lost to city rivals Real Madrid in the final two years ago and are desperate to go one better, although they have lost their last seven meetings with Barca.
But the Catalan giants have shown signs of fallibility in recent weeks, with back-to-back league defeats seeing their La Liga lead cut to just three points over the capital city side.
“In a scenario like tomorrow all that has happened in the past is forgotten at the start of the game,” said Atletico coach Simeone.
“Then as the game develops certain situations may develop that are repeated (from previous games).”
Suarez will return for Barca after being banned for the weekend loss at Real Sociedad, but former Liverpool striker Torres, who has scored in his last three games, is suspended.
“We need to overcome the absence of Fernando and control a marvellous footballer like Suarez,” said Simeone.
“Fernando will offer us a lot between now and the end of the season, he has improved a lot in this final part of the season,” added Atletico captain Gabi.
“But Atletico have always overcome the absences of big players.”
– Benfica’s attacking worries -Benfica also have a key forward missing through suspension.
Jonas has scored 32 goals in all competitions this season, but the Brazilian’s yellow card in Bavaria means that the Portuguese champions will be looking to Greek Kostas Mitroglou and Raul Jimenez to provide the goals needed to turn the tie around.
Rui Vitoria’s side are also waiting on the fitness of key attacking midfielder Nicolas Gaitan, with the Argentine struggling with a thigh problem.
“We will make a decision tomorrow. We will need to wait until kick-off time to see if he is available,” Benfica coach Vitoria told a press conference on the eve of the game.
“We managed to ensure that the tie will be decided at home but it will still be extremely difficult for us to go through.
“We will be coming up against a very strong team who are used to playing in matches like these and are contenders to win the trophy.”
Bayern, who last won the trophy in 2013, are still firm favourites to progress thanks to Arturo Vidal’s second-minute strike in Bavaria last week.
Outgoing coach Pep Guardiola, who will join Manchester City at the end of the season, is still on track to match the feat of Jupp Heynckes and win the treble of Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League in his final campaign at the Allianz Arena.
“We will go out there to defend well and try to score a goal to go through,” the Spaniard told a press conference on Tuesday.
“Tactically we know what we need to do. Above all we will need to show great character in front of more than 60,000 spectators.”
While Bayern and Barca have both won Europe’s elite competition on five occasions, only Real and AC Milan have won more, they will have their work cut out to join Manchester City and Real Madrid in the last four.