For the ninth consecutive season, Atlético Madrid will be playing Champions League football and will kick off this year’s adventure with a game against FC Porto on Wednesday night.
“The competition is very tough, and you pay for any mistake and you have to adjust to everything you can in each game,” Diego Simeone said Tuesday. “We are focusing on Porto and the rest will come.”
Coached by Simeone’s former Lazio teammate Sergio Conceiçao, rock-solid Porto eliminated Juventus in the last 16 a season ago before finishing second in the Portuguese league. In-demand winger Luis Díaz has three goals in only 427 minutes this season, while former Real Madrid stalwart Pepe continues to lead the Dragons’ defense.
“I don’t expect anything (from Porto) other than what I have seen in their league games and in Europe,” Simeone said. “Pressure, aggressiveness, and a lot of speed to their game, with very clear ideas on how to find numerical superiority, where they can do damage.”
José Giménez will anchor a defense Wednesday that will not feature Stefan Savić, as the Montenegrin is beginning a four-game suspension incurred during last season’s round of 16 to Chelsea.
“Stefan is very important, a leader in the group, and we need him in every game,” Giménez said Tuesday. “But the squad is deep, and whoever plays will play as well as possible.”
Though the two sides have done transfer business throughout the years, Atlético and Porto have not met on the pitch since the 2013/14 Champions League group stage. That season, Atleti won both encounters on the way to winning the group and eventually reaching the final.
“We know it will be a difficult game, like every one in this competition, especially at the start,” Giménez said. “Every point will be important, especially when playing at home. We have to play our game and go for the three points.”
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Squad news Savić is suspended after “shoving” Antonio Rüdiger at Stamford Bridge in March. Kieran Trippier missed a portion of training Tuesday with a digestive issue, but he is anticipated to be ready for Wednesday. All other rojiblancos — including former Porto stars Felipe and Héctor Herrera and one-time youth player João Félix — are available.