Atletico Madrid will look to punch their ticket to the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday when they play host to AC Milan in the Spanish capital.
Each of the two European powers enter Tuesday's round-of-16 second leg with their work cut out for them.
Following a 1-0 win at the San Siro on Feb. 19, Los Rojiblancos are projected to progress to the quarterfinals on their home pitch, where they have fallen just once in all competitions in 2013-14. Led by Diego Costa, Atletico will look to pressure Milan in the final third and shut down the Italian side's attack, which is likely to feature mercurial superstar Mario Balotelli.
Balotelli, who leads all Milan goal scorers with 14 goals in 29 appearances in all competitions this season, suffered a shoulder injury in the loss to Atletico last month but is expected to suit up on Tuesday.
Nonetheless, Clarence Seedorf's underachieving side will enter enemy territory as underdogs this week.
Here we'll get you set with everything you need to know ahead of kickoff.
Date: Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Start Time: 8:45 p.m. local time, GMT (3:45 p.m. ET)
Venue: Vicente Calderon Stadium, Madrid
TV: Fox Sports 2 (U.S.), Sky Sports 1 (U.K.)
Atletico Madrid: 69.4 percent
AC Milan: 10.0 percent
Draw: 20.6 percent
*According to Bloomberg Sports.
What's at Stake
European title hopes are on the line for both clubs on Tuesday, but the home squad will kick off with a one-goal advantage on the all-important aggregate.
With Atletico scoring a 1-0 win on the road last month, Milan will need to be near flawless defensively and find a way to get past Thibaut Courtois in order to prevail and advance to the next stage. Milan will need more than one goal, though, as a 1-0 scoreline in favor of the visitors after 90-plus minutes would bring about extra time and eventually a penalty shootout to determine who moves on.
Despite their advantage, Atletico will be in uncharted territory on Tuesday as they are strangers to the Champions League knockout stage. They'll be under heavy pressure from a desperate Milan side on Tuesday but clearly have the talent and the structure to get the job done.
Meanwhile, Milan, who were ousted by Barcelona in the round of 16 a year ago, will need to pull out all the stops in order to avoid another disappointing Champions League exit.
Which side will advance to the quarterfinals?
Considering Atletico's dominance at home and Milan's lack of offensive firepower outside of Balotelli, Diego Simeone's side are poised to build on their lead and ultimately advance at home on Tuesday.
Balotelli's return should provide Milan with a much-needed spark, but the 23-year-old will be watched closely from start to finish and will be forced to deliver under pressure in order to salvage Milan's European Cup dreams.
Plus, momentum won't be on Milan's side after dropping two consecutive matches to begin March, including a 1-0 defeat to Udinese on Saturday.
A deserved lose for Milan. Let's hope resting players for Atletico Madrid will bring good results. #ForzaMilan— Dr. Rossoneri (@DrRossoneri) March 8, 2014
Despite earning a shutout win in Italy last month, Simeone is well aware of Milan's potential, per Yahoo:
We have to contain and control the game...The clash will depend on the intensity we produce in the midfield...An open game will better suit Milan. They are an attacking team given the characteristics of their players. We need to make the most of the space they give us.
But Atletico are every bit as lethal. Costa, who has five goals in four Champions League starts this season, leads a potent attack that plays its best football at Vicente Calderon.
Expect another closely contested battle between these two sides with the Spanish contenders edging out short-handed Milan in the end.
Atletico Madrid 1, AC Milan 0
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