Atletico aim to break losing streak

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The Independent Online
Atletico Madrid face their "game of the year" today when they play Ajax in their European Cup quarter-final, second leg. The first leg in Amsterdam ended 1-1.

Last year's Atletico did the double in Spain but their hopes of retaining their league title and the cup disappeared in less than two weeks with three successive defeats in thrilling games in which they have conceded 12 goals. Now they are not even sure of securing a place in next season's Uefa Cup.

They lost to a last-minute goal at Real Betis 10 days ago and incidents during and after the match cost them suspensions to three key players.

The club's outspoken president, Jesus Gil, responded by threatening to boycott the Spanish Cup. In the event, Gil's players took a last-minute flight to Barcelona for their cup tie, cruised into a 3-0 lead but then lost 5-4. Last weekend they crashed 4-1 at home to Valencia.

Antic must wait to see whether the striker Juan Eduardo Esnaider recovers from tonsillitis before naming his team. If he is not, Esnaider's fellow Argentinian, Leonardo Biagini, could play, although Jose Luis Caminero could be moved forward to partner Kiko Narvaez.

Patrick Kluivert's suspension is Ajax's biggest headache. The young striker had an uninspired game in Amsterdam but he will be sorely missed by the Dutch, who beat Roda JC Kerkrade 3-1 at home on Friday. Their Finnish forward Jari Litmanen has a hip injury but hopes to be fit.

Atletico Madrid (probable): Molina; Denia, Munoz, Solozabal, Juan Lopez, Bejbl, Pantic, Simeone, Caminero, Kiko Narvaez, Esnaider.

Ajax (probable): Van der Sar; Melchiot, Blind, F de Boer, Musampa, Scholten, Litmanen, Witschge, Babangida, R de Boer, Overmars.

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