On paper, Leicester’s task is simple; they must score against Atletico Madrid if they are to extend a remarkable Champions League run into the semi-finals.
In reality, however, there are few tougher tasks in European football than penetrating a defence drilled by Diego Simeone.
Indeed, following last week’s 1-0 defeat in Spain, Leicester are faced with a challenge no club has yet managed — overturning a first-leg deficit to knock Simeone’s side out of the Champions League.
Since the Argentinian manager guided Madrid’s less-heralded club into the European elite in 2013-14, only Real Madrid – who have won the competition twice since – have a better defensive record in the knock-out stages.
Atletico have conceded just 16 goals in Champions League knock-out ties under Simeone, despite reaching two finals and playing 21 games — Only Real have played more times.
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Manchester City, Arsenal, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain have all conceded more despite playing fewer games.
Of teams to have appeared in at least three of the four knock-out stages in that period, only Chelsea and Juventus have conceded fewer with a respective 14 goals from 10 games and 12 goals from 12 games.
Atletico average 0.76 goals conceded per game in the last four knockout stages, while Real Madrid average 0.70 goals conceded per game — although Atletico’s figure includes the three extra-time goals Real put on their rivals in the 2014 final.
Unfortunately for Leicester, playing away from home does not appear to have made Simeone’s men any less resilient.
Atletico average 1.11 goals conceded in away legs — only marginally higher than Real Madrid and Juventus’s average of one goal conceded per away game.
Yet most discouragingly for Craig Shakespeare and Leicester is the fact that Atletico appear to have been even more ruthlessly effective in defence under the pressure of a second leg.
Don’t expect a Paris-Saint Germain-style collapse: no team to have made the Champions League knock-out stages in three of the last four years has conceded fewer second-leg goals than Atletico, who average 0.6 goals conceded per second-leg match. The next closest is Real Madrid on 0.9 per second-leg match.
Even if the likes of Riyad Mahrez break through Simeone’s shield and conjure a chance, actually converting an opening is also a particularly tough task against Atletico thanks to goalkeeper Jan Oblak.
Since the start of last season, the Slovenian has kept more clean sheets than any other keeper in Europe’s top five leagues with 36 — a period that includes his record low 18 goals conceded in La Liga last season.
Similarly, no keeper has kept more clean sheets in the Champions League since the start of last season’s campaign than Oblak, who has 13.
Source : CityA.M.