Atletico aims to jump-start attack against Malmo
Oct. 21, 2014
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Atletico Madrid will rely on its home-field advantage and mastery of set pieces when it hosts Swedish champion Malmo in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Atletico went undefeated at Vicente Calderon Stadium en route to reaching last year's final. Diego Simeone's side has won 18 of its last 20 home matches in Europe, with its last loss against Rubin Kazan in February 2013.
Also, Juventus will look to avoid a second straight defeat when it travels to play Olympiakos.
Group A is proving to be the most tightly contested of all eight groups, despite featuring the Spanish and Italian league champions. It is the only group with all four teams level on three points going into the third game.
Here are some more things to should know about Group A:
Atletico had to overhaul its attack after Diego Costa, David Villa and Adrian Lopez all left.
It appeared to have done a fine job of replacing them, bringing in Mario Mandzukic from Bayern Munich, adding speedy winger Antoine Griezmann and signing Mexico forward Raul Jimenez.
But the trio has yet to click.
Griezmann and Jimenez have only one goal each, and Mandzukic has yet to emerge from the ever-growing shadow of Diego Costa, now joint top scorer in the Premier League at Chelsea. The Croatia striker has scored only twice in eight rounds in the Spanish league, to go with two more goals in other competitions.
Simeone called out Griezmann after his team beat Espanyol 2-0 on Sunday.
"He played well, with a lot of pace and mobility," Simeone said. "We need Griezmann's goals and he is working so they will finally arrive."
While Atletico waits for its forwards to get going, its midfielders and defenders are continuing to pick up the scoring slack.
The secret of Atletico's success is Simeone's well-planned set pieces.
Eleven of Atletico's 19 goals this season have come from corner or free kicks that favor its large group of physical players who coordinate well in the opposing area to shed their markers and meet precisely-delivered crosses from Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion and Gabi Fernandez.
"We have players who cross well and others who are good at striking," said midfielder Mario Suarez, who scored from a corner to help beat Espanyol. "It is something we work hard at and it is paying off. But we also need to score goals in open play because our rivals are getting to know us."
KING ARTHUR FUMING
Juventus will travel to Greece with a problem no coach wants: a disgruntled star.
Arturo Vidal is angry after being left off the squad for Juventus' 1-1 draw at Sassuolo over the weekend.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri explained before the match that Vidal needed to rest after playing for two friendlies with Chile — he scored in both of them. But reports in Italy said the attacking midfielder was fined for showing up late to training after an extended night out and was also struggling to regain fitness from right knee surgery earlier this year.
Vidal, often labeled "King Arthur," responded on his Twitter feed Sunday, saying that the recent reports were "wrong and in many cases ill-intentioned."
Juventus reportedly attempted to sell Vidal in the offseason but without success, and there remains speculation that he could leave the club, despite scoring 18 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions last season.
However, with Andrea Pirlo appearing fatigued, Vidal could start against Olympiakos.
MISTAKES WORRY MICHEL
Greece's perennial champions are feeling vulnerable. Olympiakos hosts Juventus after losing its lead in the Greek league and following a surprise 2-0 defeat in Malmo this month.
Olympiakos coach Michel Gonzalez singled out carelessness as his main worry.
"If we keep playing the same way and keep making the same mistakes, it is certain that Juventus will not give us the chance to win. That's what happened to us in Sweden," the Spanish coach said.
"There's been a lack of organization when we go forward. That leaves our defense exposed, and no defense can withstand this for too long."
AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome and Associated Press writer Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed to this report.