Atletico Madrid heads high after Chelsea loss – Oblak

By Sports Desk February 23, 2021

Jan Oblak urged Atletico Madrid to remain positive after their recent wobble extended to a 1-0 defeat against Chelsea in the Champions League.

Oblak was beaten by OIivier Giroud's magnificent overhead kick in the 68th minute, while his opposite number Edouard Mendy did not have a shot to save over the course of the 90 minutes in Bucharest – Atleti's scheduled home leg having been rearranged to the Romanian capital due to coronavirus restrictions.

Atletico's famously robust defence is now without a clean sheet in eight outings, while their lead at the top of LaLiga is down to two points from Real Madrid after one win in four.

"It's football. Sometimes you have to win, other times lose," Oblak told reporters.

"We have another game left, we have to raise our heads, also in LaLiga and we have to prepare, be strong and improve game by game. 

"We can't think of anything other than going back [to winning]. Lately, things are going a bit against us."

Atletico return to LaLiga action with a tricky trip to Villarreal this weekend, while the subsequent derby against Real Madrid looks likely to be a pivotal moment in their season.

"It is a bad moment and on Sunday this is going to change," Oblak said.

"You have to think positively, the season is long with difficult moments and it is time to show that we are a strong group that is united.

"Only then will we get out of it."

Despite selecting a starting line-up featuring Joao Felix and Angel Correa in support of Luis Suarez and with Marcos Llorente and Thomas Lemar as wing-backs, Atleti boss Diego Simeone came in for criticism after the game for a perceived negative approach.

"The plan is always to defend well, no matter what the game plan is," Oblak added. "We didn’t play badly, we played fine.

"When I got back to the changing room, I saw everyone with their heads high, all convinced we're going to win.

"We can come back and we're still first in LaLiga."

Related items

  • Where did it all go wrong for Philippe Coutinho? Where did it all go wrong for Philippe Coutinho?

    Barcelona tackle Bayern Munich on Wednesday in a crucial Champions League game, knowing they probably have to win in the Allianz Arena to qualify for the knockout stages.

    The Germans are already safely through as winners of Group E, but Barca will crash out at the group stage if they fail to win and Benfica beat Dynamo Kiev in Portugal.

    One player who made a notable cameo when Barca and Bayern played one another in the quarter-finals of the Champions League two seasons ago was Philippe Coutinho, whose star has fallen so far since a record move to the Camp Nou in 2018 that he may not even feature in the vital clash.

    Stats Perform has taken a look at what happened to the £142million man.


    Get back... injuries

    It was the day before the start of the 2017-18 season, and Liverpool's campaign already felt like it had been thrown into chaos.

    Jurgen Klopp was getting ready for a trip to Watford when news broke that his star man Philippe Coutinho had handed in a transfer request, supposedly after the Reds had rejected a £90million bid from Barcelona.

    Liverpool ended up drawing 3-3 at Vicarage Road with new man Mohamed Salah scoring his first goal for the club in a game in which Coutinho did not feature, insisting that he had a sore back.

    The Brazilian was ultimately forced to stay until the January transfer window when he eventually sealed his dream move to the Camp Nou for a deal that, with add-ons, would amount to around £142million, a record for the Catalan club.

    To his credit, Coutinho got his head down after the disappointment of being denied a move in the summer of 2017, playing 20 more games for Liverpool in the first half of the campaign, scoring 12 goals and registering eight assists.

    His numbers were up there with the rest of what remains to this day Liverpool's main front three of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, but back then he was part of what was briefly known as 'The Fab Four'. His minutes-per-goal record (one every 125.67 minutes) was second only to Salah (94.68) among those with one than one appearance, while he created more chances than anyone else (56).

    He did miss a few more games closer to the January transfer window through more apparent back issues, but scored one final screamer at Anfield against Swansea City in his last game for the club, coincidentally the same team he had scored his first Reds goal against in February 2013 after arriving from Inter Milan for just £8.5million.

    In his five years on Merseyside, Coutinho won the hearts of the Kop with his skill, his effort and increasingly, his end product, bagging 54 goals and 43 assists in 201 games for the club.

    However, it seemed his heart lay elsewhere, finally securing a move to Barcelona in January 2018.

    Philippe Cout-Iniesta?

    There was pressure on his shoulders immediately, arriving just a few months after the departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain, with much of the money Barca received being spent on prising Coutinho from Anfield.

    There was also talk that he was ultimately being tasked with replacing Andres Iniesta, who was to leave Barca at the end of the 2017-18 season, with taking over from such a club legend a formidable task for anyone.

    Coutinho did not start too badly in his first five months, scoring 10, assisting six and creating 33 chances in 22 appearances as Barca lifted the Spanish title and Copa del Rey.

    However, his first full season did not quite go according to plan, with Coutinho managing 11 goals and five assists in 54 appearances, actually scoring fewer than he had done in his final half-season at Liverpool. He created 59 chances, compared (admittedly cruelly) to the great Lionel Messi's 141 in fewer games across that 2018-19 campaign.

    Barca boss Ernesto Valverde did not seem to know what he wanted from Coutinho, sometimes playing him in Iniesta's old position in midfield, sometimes playing him in Neymar's old position out wide on the left. Coutinho was criticised by some for appearing to not be suited to either, despite the fact he fulfilled both well enough in the Premier League.

    To rub salt in the wounds, Coutinho would return to Anfield that season as part of a Barca side that capitulated in the Champions League semi-final, throwing away their 3-0 advantage from the first leg to crash out of the competition, with the Brazilian's old Liverpool team-mates going on to lift the trophy in Madrid a few weeks later.

    Bavarian adventure

    Despite progress not running smoothly for Coutinho, it was still a surprise for many to see Barca agree to loan him to Bayern Munich the following season. Antoine Griezmann had been signed from Atletico Madrid, which would have limited Coutinho's Camp Nou game time, so the hope was either that he would rediscover peak form in Germany, or at least do well enough that Barca could make some of their money back with a future transfer.

    He showed marginally more of his former self, scoring 11 and assisting nine in 38 appearances, albeit only 22 games from the start, while creating 50 chances, and 11 big chances. But it was difficult to stand out much in a team that included Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski.

    Never one to miss out on ironic Champions League moments, Coutinho came off the bench to score the final two goals of an 8-2 thrashing of his parent club in the quarter-finals.

    He ended that season with a Champions League winner's medal, as well as winning the Bundesliga title and DFB-Pokal in an impressive treble, but Bayern decided against signing Coutinho permanently.

    One last shot

    Under Ronald Koeman, Coutinho was determined to finally make a success of his career back at Barcelona, and showed glimpses in the 14 games he managed in the 2020-21 season before injury struck as he suffered a torn meniscus, ending his campaign before the new year.

    It seemed one of the transfer market's worst kept secrets that Barca were open to selling Coutinho at the end of that season, among several other players, as financial woes mounted at the club, but there were understandably no takers given his form and injury issues.

    Both parties were left with no choice but to try again this season, and while he has been given chances, they have been sporadic, with just five starts and nine substitute appearances so far, registering two goals. Coutinho has yet to provide an assist, and he has only created two chances.

    Xavi is now in the hot seat at the Camp Nou, pledging to return a struggling team to the "Barca way", and he opened the door for Coutinho to perhaps have one last shot of establishing himself.

    "Coutinho is someone who can play in various positions, and he can be important for the team," Xavi told reporters ahead of his first match in charge against Espanyol.

    "He needs to re-find himself and recover his confidence. If he does, he will help us a lot. He has an innate talent. It depends on him. He will get chances because he's a player I like personally. It's more psychological than anything because he has talent."

    Anyone who watched Coutinho regularly at Liverpool will know there is a world-class player in there somewhere. Klopp was able to get a tremendous tune out of him despite not necessarily playing in a style that suits him, and with the player not even wanting to be there in the last few months.

    Xavi is right, though. When Coutinho is given opportunities, it will depend on him.

    He will just be hoping those opportunities don't come in the Europa League.

  • Man Utd v Young Boys: Lifelines, points to prove and stakes to claim – who needs to impress Rangnick? Man Utd v Young Boys: Lifelines, points to prove and stakes to claim – who needs to impress Rangnick?

    Manchester United's Champions League campaign has been one of the finest of margins, to say the least.

    A shock defeat at Wednesday's opponents Young Boys on matchday one was a dreadful start, and at numerous occasions in their following two matches they appeared to be in trouble again.

    They needed late winners from Cristiano Ronaldo at home to both Villarreal and Atalanta, coming back from 2-0 down at half-time against the Italians.

    Ronaldo then got a last-gasp equaliser away to Atalanta to salvage a 2-2 draw. Had he not delivered the goods on that occasion, United would have gone to Villarreal on matchday five knowing they could be eliminated there and then.

    As it was, they ultimately left Spain with a 2-0 win thanks to a couple of goals in the final 12 minutes, with Michael Carrick – who had taken up a caretaker manager position after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's dismissal – ensuring United finished top of the group.

    Ralf Rangnick will be United's third manager of the group stage when Young Boys visit, and he has the luxury of being able to rest certain players and give others a chance to impress.

    So, who will be hoping for a rare opportunity?

    Dean Henderson

    It wasn't perfect, but Henderson's first season in the Man United first team last term was promising. David de Gea suffered a knee injury that allowed the academy product his first serious run in the side after previously impressing on loan at Sheffield United.

    He featured 26 times for the Red Devils across all competitions, keeping as many clean sheets (12) as De Gea despite playing 10 matches fewer.

    De Gea prevented fractionally more goals over the season (1.9 to 1.6), according to Opta's expected goals on target (xGOT) data, although Henderson boasted a better save percentage (75.8 to 66.4).

    This season, due to injury and illness – and De Gea's improved form – Henderson has only managed a single appearance.

    With rumours linking him with a loan move to Ajax in January, it's certainly a good time to start getting minutes again, whether that's to improve his standing at United or put himself in the shop window.

    Donny Van de Beek

    As with Henderson, Rangnick confirmed Van de Beek will start on Wednesday, which will make it five appearances since Solskjaer was sacked; up until that point, the former Ajax midfielder had played in just six games all season.

    It's been well publicised how Van de Beek's career seemingly stalled after joining United, making only four Premier League starts in 2020-21, despite costing just over £40million, and falling out of favour at international level.

    Solskjaer appeared unsure how best to utilise Van de Beek's talents, but at the very least he looks set for a few more opportunities under Rangnick.

    He's one of several who have been linked with a move away from Old Trafford, but an eye-catching display against Young Boys might just provide Rangnick with proof Van de Beek can be a valuable option in midfield.

    Jesse Lingard

    Everything was looking promising for Lingard at the start of the season. He'd returned from a remarkable loan spell at West Ham and Solskjaer was talking a good game about how much football the attacking midfielder was going to get.

    Fast forward to the present day... Lingard has racked up just 87 minutes in the Premier League, with those coming across eight brief substitute appearances.

    This has hardly been ideal given United apparently rejected bids of around £25m for Lingard in pre-season because Solskjaer wanted him for the first team; additionally, the England man's contract expires at the end of the season, so if they cannot convince him that he'll be playing, the club looks certain to lose a valuable asset for free.

    Last season reminded everyone Lingard is not lacking talent. Between his Hammers debut in February and the end of 2020-21, the 28-year-old scored nine times in the Premier League, a haul bettered by just five players.

    Only one of those was a penalty, leaving him with a non-penalty expected goals (xG) outperformance of 4.7, the second-best record in that time. Of course, such form isn't necessarily sustainable, but it speaks to how effective Lingard can be when he has the belief of his manager.

    Rangnick would do well to recognise that.

    Amad Diallo

    It's been a difficult season for Ivory Coast winger Amad. He was about to go on loan at the start of the season before an injury robbed him of that opportunity.

    He returned to the pitch for United's Under-23s at the end of October and has played two games for them, netting a couple of goals against Leeds United.

    United are well-stocked in the wide positions, which provides another obstacle, but Amad has been on the bench twice in the past few weeks under Carrick – against Villarreal and Arsenal.

    One would expect United to arrange another loan move for Amad in January, but before then he may just represent something of a wildcard option for the new manager.

    Teden Mengi

    Centre-back Mengi has been highly rated at United for a while and even spent the second half of last season on loan at Derby County.

    It seemed likely he'd return to Pride Park for 2021-22, but a deal was apparently scuppered by Derby's financial woes, with Mengi instead staying with United's Under-23s.

    Mengi spent the pre-season with the first team and featured for Solskjaer's side, although that did not translate to any minutes in competitive action.

    But with Raphael Varane not ready to return from injury and Phil Jones not registered in the Champions League, United's senior options at centre-back are limited to just Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly.

    If Rangnick does want wholesale changes, which has been suggested, Mengi may be a surprise starter – and what an opportunity it would represent for the 19-year-old.

  • Lewandowski eyes history, Ronaldo targets own record – Champions League in Opta numbers Lewandowski eyes history, Ronaldo targets own record – Champions League in Opta numbers

    Barcelona head to Bayern Munich on the final matchday desperately needing a positive result to secure their spot in the Champions League knockout stages.

    Benfica, who face Dynamo Kiev in Group E's other clash, hold the head-to-head edge over Xavi's new side as Barca travel to Germany knowing they likely need a win to make it through to the next round.

    Manchester United and Chelsea are already through their respective groups, while Juventus host Malmo with the Bianconeri's place in the last-16 sealed before the final matchday as well.

    As Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo edge towards more records, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data heading into the games taking place on Wednesday.

    Bayern Munich v Barcelona: Blaugrana face thankless task to qualify

    Bayern have won their last three Champions League meetings with Barca, which is already the longest run against the Blaugrana in European history by any side.

    Julian Nagelsmann's team, who have averaged five goals per home game in this season's competition, have cruised through to the next round, while Barca could fall to their second-worst performance in terms of points if they fail to avoid defeat.

    The visitors will have to deal with Lewandowski, who is the top scorer in the group stage with nine goals and the Poland forward could become the only player in history to net 10-plus times in the group stage on multiple occasions. Ronaldo (11 in 2015-16) and Lionel Messi (10 in 2016-17) are the only other players to have achieved this once.

    Zenit v Chelsea: Blues edge towards more defensive milestones

    Chelsea could become just the second English team, after Manchester United in 2003-04 and 2010-11 to win four consecutive games in the competition while keeping a clean sheet on each occasion.

    Indeed, with a clean sheet the Blues and Thomas Tuchel could become the fastest team and manager combination to reach 10 shutouts in the competition, having already recorded nine in just 12 games since the German's appointment.

    The defending champions have also had 14 different scorers, excluding own goals, the most of any team in the Champions League since Tuchel's Blues bow in Europe.

    Manchester United v Young Boys: Ronaldo looks to repeat history

    Ronaldo has scored in all five of his Champions League appearances since returning to United (six goals), while Bruno Fernandes boasts the most assists in the competition so far this term (five).

    Portugal captain Ronaldo will be looking to repeat the feat of scoring in all six group stage games in a single campaign, having previously done so for Real Madrid in 2017-18 – the only previous instance of this in the competition’s history.

    Worryingly for Young Boys, who never kept a clean sheet in 11 attempts in the competition, the Swiss side have lost their last six away games between 1986 and 2021, last tasting European Cup/Champions League victory in August 1960.

    Juventus v Malmo: Bianconeri aim to match record home dominance

    Juve have won each of their last five Champions League home matches, only registering more consecutive such victories in a run of six between December 2016 and 2017.

    While the Bianconeri did suffer their heaviest defeat in the history of the competition against Chelsea, Juve have a perfect record against Malmo in their opening three games – only Barca have ever won their opening four games against a specific opponent in the competitions.

    Meanwhile, Malmo have only managed one win in their last eight against Italian opponents in the European Cup/Champions League, with their lone triumph against Inter in September 1989.

     

    Other fixtures:

    Atalanta v Villarreal:

    21 - There have been 21 goals scored in Atalanta’s five games against Spanish opponents in the Champions League (11 goals for, 10 against), at an average of 4.2 per game. Only one of these five games have seen a team manage to keep a clean sheet, with Real Madrid doing so in a 1-0 victory back in February.

    1 - Villarreal have won just one of their eight visits to Italian opponents in major European competition (D3 L4), though it came in their most recent such outing, defeating Roma 1-0 in the Europa League in 2016-17.

    Benfica v Dynamo Kiev:

    4 - Since losing their first ever meeting with Dynamo Kiev in European competition (0-1 in November 1991), Benfica are unbeaten in four games against the Ukrainian side (W3 D1), with all four coming in the European Cup/Champions League.

    60 – Dynamo Kiev have lost 60 per cent of their away matches in the competition, only Olympiakos (75) and Galatasaray (71) have lost a larger percentage out of teams to have played at least 50 such games.

    Red Bull Salzburg v Sevilla:

    5 – Red Bull Salzburg are winless in their last five fixtures against Spanish opposition in the Champions League and have only won one of their last 11 meetings against such sides.

    3 – Sevilla's Ivan Rakitic has managed three goal involvements in his side's five goals in the competition, despite only starting two games – only for Barca in 2015-16 did he record more (four).

    Wolfsburg v Lille:

    5 - Wolfsburg have gone unbeaten in their last five games against French opponents in European competition (W2 D3) after previously going eight games without recording a victory against French teams across all competitions (D3 L5).

    8 – Lille have claimed eight points from their opening five games and could equal, or improve on, their best ever return in a group stage in the competition - nine points in 2006-07, where they qualified with a second-place finish.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.