Real Madrid v Atalanta: Thrilling second leg finale forecast
Real Madrid hold a 1-0 aggregate advantage against Atalanta coming into Tuesday night's second leg showdown in the Champions League. Mark O'Haire previews the contest.
Real Madrid leave it late against Elche
Real Madrid kept their La Liga title challenge alive when coming from behind to secure a late 2-1 success over struggling Elche at their Valdebebas base on Saturday. Karim Benzema was key to Los Blancos' remontada, with the Frenchman bagging a brace inside the final 20 minutes to turn the tie on its head after an uninspiring display from the defending champions.
Zinedine Zidane's squad welcome Benzema back into the fray last weekend after an injury lay-off and Madrid's side was bolstered further by the return of captain Sergio Ramos on Saturday. Eden Hazard was also back in the squad after a spell on the sidelines with Los Blancos' treatment table now only featuring Daniel Carvajal from the first XI.
Luka Modric and Toni Kroos were rested against Elche as Casemiro's continental suspension means Federico Valverde could join the duo in the centre of the park, tasked with more defensive duties. Alternatively, Zidane could opt to switch systems with Los Blancos' boss well aware of the offensive threat Atalanta can pose, particularly when chasing games.
Atalanta attention on Madrid
Atalanta picked up a cushy 3-1 success over Spezia on Friday night with Mario Pasalic notching a double either side of Luis Muriel's stunning strike, to help the Orobici secure three important points in Serie A. However, head coach Gian Piero Gasperini immediately turned his focus to Tuesday night's tussle as Le Dea look to overturn their 1-0 deficit.
Speaking to reporters, Gasperini said the Bergamo boys will do their best to turn around the 'complicated match', saying, "Let's not go there to have a walk. In the first leg we played a painful, defensive match, we weren't able to play 11 against 11, we'll see. We hope we can go ahead. We are proud to play it with an uncompromised qualification."
Hans Hateboer remains an injury absentee, whilst Remo Freuler's 17th-minute red card in the first fixture means the Swiss midfielder will miss out here. Nevertheless, Atalanta have no more selection concerns coming into the contest and Gasperini has options in attack with Muriel, Duvan Zapata and Josip Illicic all vying for starting berths in Madrid.
La Dea a danger
Real Madrid 2.14 have progressed from eight of their last nine Champions League knockout ties when they've won the first leg away. However, the hosts are winless in their last four home knockout ties (W0-D1-L3), losing their past two. The Spaniards have taken top honours in 11 of their past 12 when welcoming Serie A sides to Madrid, scoring at least twice on 10 occasions.
Atalanta 3.60 are on the longest run of away victories of any team in the Champions League, having won each of their last five, scoring 14 goals across these five games, while keeping four clean sheets. In fact, La Dea are yet to concede a goal away in the Champions League this season with only Man City facing fewer away shots on-target per-game.
None of Atalanta's 16 Champions League games has ended goalless. Since last season, La Dea's continental contests have produced a whopping 54 goals, at an average of 3.3.38 per-game. Domestically, the Bergamo outfit have posted 3.59 goals per-game as nine of 12 match-ups with top-half Serie A sides have paid out for Both Teams To Score 1.68 backers.
Real Madrid haven't proven quite as fruitful, particularly since Christmas, although Los Blancos' group games provided plenty of entertainment. Zinedine Zidane's charges scored twice or more in five of their six pool fixtures - including home and away ties with Inter Milan, whilst all six matches featured a minimum of two goals.
With Atalanta chasing a way back into the tie, we could be in for an entertaining and exciting second leg showdown at Valdebebas. The Bergamo boys have the approach, and quality to score goals against any opposition and therefore a goal-heavy game looks our best option of attack. Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score can be supported at 1.90.
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