Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Assuncao certain Atletico will qualify

Atletico Madrid midfielder Paulo Assuncao is confident his side can put their poor start to the season behind them and return from tonight's Champions League tie against his former club Porto with all three points.

Atletico made the trip to Portugal under increasing pressure after taking just three points from their opening five league matches, which has left the team in the bottom three.

The Rojiblancos have not had much reason for cheer in Europe either, and they were booed off by their own fans after being held to a goalless draw by minnows Apoel Nicosia in their opening Group D game. That was a potentially costly setback for Atletico, especially considering the other team in their group are Chelsea, but Assuncao does not feel that result has jeopardised their chances of progressing to the knockout stages.

Instead, he believes they will get back on track against the Portuguese champions tomorrow.

"Porto have a good team and it won't be easy to beat them, although we also have a great squad and I think we can defeat them and come back to Madrid with the three points," said Assuncao, who played for Porto in the 2000/01 season and then again from 2005-08 before making the switch to Atletico.

"Not getting through to the next round isn't something that we are thinking about. I'm sure we'll get past the group stage."

Abel Resino's men go into the match having had contrasting experiences in their last two league matches, both of which finished in 2-2 draws.

Last week, they were denied a first win of the campaign by a last-minute Almeria equaliser, and then on Sunday they were saved from defeat by an injury-time leveller of their own against Valencia.

"We're going to fight just as hard [against Porto] as we did in the Valencia match. We're really looking forward to trying to get the win," added Assuncao.

Atletico already know from bitter recent experience just how hard it is to win at the Estadio do Dragao, though.

In last season's competition Atletico travelled to Portugal needing to score at least once to have a chance of progressing to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, after being held 2-2 at home by Porto.

However, they were unable to find the breakthrough in a goalless draw and Porto, having dominated the first leg and been unlucky not to record a convincing victory at the Vicente Calderon, deservedly went through to the last eight.

Porto could get no further, though, as they were knocked out by the defending champions, Manchester United.

This season Jesualdo Ferreira's side suffered a losing start to their group campaign against another English side, going down 1-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

They have had a much better time of it domestically than their opponents tonight, though, winning four of their opening six games, including a 1-0 triumph over Sporting Lisbon at the weekend.