This time, defence alone won’t be enough to keep Atletico Madrid alive in the Champions League.
Diego Simeone’s team need their attack to wake up if they want to overcome the 1-0 first-leg loss to Manchester City in the quarterfinals of the European competition.
The team were held scoreless and managed a total of one shot on target in their last two matches. To reach their first Champions League semifinals since 2017, Atletico need their stars to step up when City visit on Wednesday.
Joao Felix, Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez have combined to score only four goals since early March — two by Felix and two by Suarez in the same Spanish league game. Matheus Cunha and Angel Correa, the other Atletico forwards, also haven’t helped much recently, being unable to score since February.
Other than the double against last-place Alaves on April 2, Felix is scoreless in six matches in all competitions. Suarez hasn’t found the net since February 19. The 35-year-old Uruguay striker was key for Atletico in their Spanish league title-winning campaign last year but has played a reduced role this campaign.
Griezmann has been struggling the most, though, with no goals in nine consecutive matches in a scoreless streak that dates back to a Copa del Rey match in January. The 31-year-old France forward returned to Atletico this season after a lackluster stint with Barcelona but hasn’t fully met expectations.
Simeone rested Felix against Mallorca on Saturday and started with Suarez and Griezmann in attack, but they struggled in a 1-0 loss that left the team fourth in the league standings with seven rounds to go, in danger of not securing a Champions League spot next season.
Atletico had only one shot on target against relegation-threatened Mallorca and none in the first leg against City.
Besides offensive struggles, Atletico’s recent home record in European competitions also has been disappointing. They haven’t won in their last six home games in the Champions League, with four draws and two losses. They lost to Liverpool and AC Milan this season, with draws against Porto in the group stage and Manchester United in the first leg of the round of 16.
Atletico’s defence, which has carried the team under Simeone in recent years, was largely effective in Manchester and could be boosted by the return of Jose Maria Gimenez, who missed the first leg because of a muscle injury. Midfielder Hector Herrera was listed as doubtful because of a muscle injury.
Not having the away-goals rule in place this season could be key for Atletico after they failed to score in England.
Playing in the quarterfinals for the sixth time in nine seasons, the Spanish club are seeking their first Champions League title.