5 things to know about Group G
5 things to know about Group G
Oct. 21, 2013
MADRID (AP) — Here are five things to know ahead of Tuesday's Group G matches in the Champions League:
BIG SCARE FOR ATLETICO MADRID
The sight of striker Diego Costa emerging from the hospital on Sunday on crutches was enough to sink even diehard Atletico fans' hearts — but not that of coach Diego Simeone.
Although the Brazil forward had hurt his right ankle, relief was palpable throughout the Spanish capital when Simeone broke the news that the player would still be on the squad's airplane to Austria.
Costa, who leads the Spanish league with 10 goals through nine rounds, picked up a "hard knock on his right ankle" during the Espanyol match but stoically played a full 90 minutes. It was not clear if he would be fully fit to play such a length of time on Tuesday, though.
Atletico's loss at Espanyol was its first in 13 matches in all competitions this season.
Hulk is returning to the stadium where he made his name.
The Brazil striker is in the Zenit St. Petersburg squad to play against FC Porto, the Portuguese club where he spent four years before moving to Russia in 2012.
Hulk scored 44 goals at the Stadium of the Dragon — a club record. Porto fans voted him one of the club's best 11 ever, earning him a life-size statue in the club museum.
Hulk's career blossomed in the blue-and-white Porto jersey, earning him his 2009 debut for Brazil. He will likely be marked on Tuesday by Porto left back Alex Sandro — his Brazil teammate.
ATLETICO'S SPIRITS UNDIMMED
Atletico visits the Prater Stadium for the fourth time in its history, a stage where it has never lost.
On all three previous visits — in 1967, 1970 and 1976 — it came away with wins, although none of them were in the Champions League.
Despite witnessing the unusual sight of Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois scoring an unlucky own-goal, gifting Espanyol a narrow win in the 53rd minute, Simeone was upbeat.
"We took an adverse goal, but in the second half the squad tried hard in different ways to equalize, and that's important," Simeone said. "We didn't complain but tried, maybe not all that effectively, for a way to score."
HIGH HOPES ON HOSINER
After two rounds, Austria Vienna is still waiting for its first ever goal in the European competition.
And it won't get easier for coach Nenad Bjelica's team against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday as attacking midfielder Alexander Gorgon has been ruled out for months because of knee surgery and forwards Tomas Jun and Marko Stankovic are doubtful with injuries. The pair missed Austria Vienna's league game on Saturday.
Against Atletico, all eyes will be on Philipp Hosiner again.
Last season, the striker scored 27 times in 30 league matches to help the club win its first national title in seven years. Hosiner hasn't matched that average so far this season, finding the net five times in 12 games.
"We play the group's favorites, one of the best teams in Spain," Austria Vienna captain Manuel Ortlechner said. "We need a top-class performance."
BOUYED BY VICTORIES
Zenit heads to Portugal after scoring a convincing 2-0 win against defending Russian champion CSKA Moscow.
First-half goals by Roman Shirokov and Hulk secured the win Friday, Zenit's seventh straight victory in the league.
Zenit leads the Russian standings with 32 points after 13 matches, five points clear off second-place Spartak Moscow with two games left before the winter break.
"We have achieved a good result but played a bad match," Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti said. "We played below our level."
Hulk is in good form, having scored seven goals in six matches. At Porto, Zenit will be without first-choice goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev, who is recovering from an injury, and suspended Belgium defender Axel Witsel.
The two teams met in the Champions League two years ago with Zenit scoring a 3-1 win at home and held Porto to a 0-0 draw away.
The game at Porto will be a key one for Zenit, which is third in Group G standings with only one point from two games and two points behind Porto.
Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal, Leonid Chizhov in Moscow and Eric Willemsen in Vienna contributed to this report.