Atleti have travelled to Azerbaijan in what is seen as a ‘must-win’ match against Qarabag in the Champions League, with a 6pm CET kick off this Wednesday. This is the first official match held between the two sides in Baku’s Olympic Stadium, with a friendly being played in 2013.
Los Colchoneros currently sit in third place in Group C, after a goalless draw in Rome and losing 2-1 to Chelsea at Wanda Metropolitano on the 27th September. The club currently have a fully fit squad to choose from, with Juanfran and Luciano Vietto being the two players to miss out on Simeone’s 19 man matchday selection.
If three points are picked up in Baku, and Chelsea win against Roma at Stamford Bridge, both Spanish and Italian clubs are even with four points in the campaign.
The club have already gained a close relationship with Azerbaijan, having had the tourist board as the shirt sponsors from January 2013 to the end of the 2014/15 season. The country’s name and their “Land of Fire” slogan were placed on shirts to raise their profile, and the €12 million sponsorship deal also saw Coach Simeone and players like Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Thibault Courtois travelling to Baku to hold a club organised coaching clinic.
In a press conference on Tuesday 17th, coach Diego Simeone gave his analysis of the game: “I always expect the best from the lads. The team is still growing and competing well,” Simeone said. “Tomorrow, like in all of our matches, we need to know what we need to do and play like that from the start.”
The Argentine also praised the Baku club and insisted that the match will be tougher than what many expect. “Even though the rival may seem weak, they played a great first half against Chelsea and Roma struggled to beat them here in Baku,” he said. “From the midfield up, they have some interesting players. Offensively, they play well and have good off-the-ball movements. They play a possession based game.”
Frenchman Ruddy Buquet has been selected to officiate the match, assisted by fellow countrymen Guillaume Debart, Fréderic Cano, Amaury Delerue, François Letexier and Bertrand Jouannaud.