UEFA Champions League: Atalanta Ambush Real Madrid
Free-scoring Atalanta will take on Real Madrid tonight in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match.
Atalanta are in confident mood after crusising to a 4-2 win over Napoli in the Italian Serie A over the weekend.
Real manager Zinedine Zidane is unwilling to risk players when Real Madrid visit Atalanta in the Champions League last 16 amid a growing injury list.
Top-scorer Karim Benzema was one of nine Real players to miss Saturday’s 1-0 win at Real Valladolid with injury and has not travelled to Italy.
The 13-time European champions have only 11 fit senior players for the first leg in Bergamo on Wednesday.
“We never take risks,” said Zidane about French forward Benzema.
“Maybe we would if it was the Champions League final or the last game of the league season with the title on the line, but there’s a long way to go.”
Eden Hazard, Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal and Marcelo are also among those who will miss the first knockout game.
Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini says his side, who reached the quarter-finals last season, remain wary of the threat posed by the Spanish giants.
“We can’t change our characteristics, which allowed us to reach the Champions League and be competitive in Italy,” said Gasperini.
“We won’t change the team, but we have to be attentive and take some precautions. We want to challenge the absolute best teams and we feel in the right condition to give it our best shot.
“Real Madrid are transformed in the Champions League. I don’t believe much in their absences, you can take away the talent, but the Real team seen in these last few weekends was a more humble side, which is a quality.”
Borussia Mochengladbach vs Manchester City
Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan said last season’s Champions League exit will not provide an extra source of motivation this year.
The Premier League leaders face Germany’s Borussia Monchengladbach in the first leg of their last-16 tie in Budapest, Hungary, on Wednesday.
City beat Real Madrid at the same stage last year, but then lost 3-1 to Lyon in a one-legged quarter-final in Lisbon.
“It is not something that is forgotten, to be honest,” said Gundogan.
“But it is not something that gives us any extra motivation. It is a new year, a new option, a new chance and a new challenge. We just try to do our best, as we did in the past.”
City are 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League, in the Carabao Cup final and the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
Manchester City have won 18 matches in a row in all competitions and manager Pep Guardiola wants them to continue what they have been doing.
“We’re going to play this like we’ve played the last games this season, in all competitions – nothing special,” said Guardiola.
“We’re going to try to win, to get a good result and then afterwards we are going to think about West Ham on Saturday.
“This is the only target. It’s the same process as I’ve said to the players for a long time – think of the next one and then, after that, the next one.”
This match will take place in Hungary because of coronavirus restrictions with Monchengladbach, eighth in the German Bundesliga and with only one win in five matches in all competitions, the designated ‘home’ team.