Atletico Madrid v Manchester United: Goals forecast for capital contest

Manchester United travel to Madrid for a first leg last-16 Champions League showdown with Atletico at the Wanda Metropolitano. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter.

Atletico earn vital victory

Atletico Madrid bounced back to winning ways at the weekend with an important 3-0 victory away at Osasuna. Goals from Joao FelixLuis Suarez and Angel Correa secured a straightforward three points for Diego Simeone's side as Los Rojiblancos consolidated their position in fifth in La Liga following a shock 1-0 loss to Levante last midweek.

Simeone reserved special praise for the role of midfield star Marcos Llorente on Saturday. The Spanish international was key in Atletico's 2021 title triumph, deployed at right midfield, as part of a supply line into Suarez. He resumed that position against Osasuna having been forced to rotate and fill in at right back on occasion due to selection issues.

Llorente should continue in his more effective position on Wednesday night, especially so considering Thomas Lemar is facing a fitness battle to feature against Manchester United. Elsewhere, Felipe and Yannick Carrasco miss out due to suspension with Matheus Cunha and Daniel Wass also sidelined through injury. However, Antoine Griezmann is available.

Man Utd secure top honours at Leeds

Manchester United survived a stirring Leeds comeback at Elland Road to claim a crucial 4-2 victory and maintain their grip on a top-four place in the Premier League. The Red Devils were in complete control at the break after captain Harry Maguire headed in Luke Shaw's corner, and Bruno Fernandes did the same from Jadon Sancho's cross right on half-time.

But Leeds hit back with two goals inside a minute and Ralf Rangnick's side appeared on the ropes in difficult conditions. Man Utd composed themselves thereafter and substitutes Fred and Anthony Elanga took advantage of fine build-up work from Sancho and Fernandes to seal a vital victory, with Rangnick piling on the praise to his players post-match.

He said: "We knew that it was an important win. It was perfect with regard to maturity, unity and the best reply they could give to some articles that there was some disruption in the locker room. I think a game like this you can only win as a team, and with the mentality of a team, and this was, apart from the three points, the most important thing."

Spaniards potentially vulnerable

Atletico Madrid and Manchester United have met only twice before on the continental stage, way back in the 1991/92 campaign in the Cup Winners Cup; the Spaniards were 3-0 winners in the first leg from Madrid and progressed with a 4-1 aggregate success. Even so, Los Rojiblancos have lost their last four fixtures with Premier League opposition.

Defending La Liga champions Atletico Madrid 2.5 are 15 points off the pace domestically and returning their worst defensive figures in the Diego Simeone era. The hosts have recorded only eight clean sheets across 31 collective league and Champions League outings, whilst conceding multiple goals in eight of their most recent 12 such encounters.

Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking, Manchester United 3.25 have been quietly accruing consistent points. The Red Devils have tabled W10-D7-L1 over their past 18 fixtures from all competitions, failing to score once and only three times shipping two or more goals. The visitors have been beaten in just three of their overall W7-D6-L3 away days this term.

First leg goals forecast

Goals aren't usually flavour of the month when analysing Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid's history in knockout Champions League ties, yet the opportunity to support Both Teams To Score at 1.96 is too good to ignore on Wednesday night considering the defensive performances of the Spanish champions this season.

Atletico managed a solitary shutout in six group games and have silenced only two of their last 12 opponents in league action. Simeone's side have shipped two goals or more in six of eight contests against top-seven teams in La Liga and may find it tough to keep Manchester United's gluttony of attacking options quiet at the Wanda Metropolitano this midweek.

The Red Devils have delivered winning BTTS bets in 12 of 16 games as guests in 2021/22, including six of their past seven away trips, with United scoring in 24 of their 27 matches across all competitions going back to mid-September.

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