Diego Costa’s late strike at the San Siro three weeks ago ensured Atletico Madrid hold all the aces when Clarence Seedorf’s AC Milan side head to the Spanish capital on Tuesday.
Diego Simone’s impressive stint as manager has seen them emerge from the shadow of Madrid rivals Real as well as La Liga champions Barcelona, and with just 11 games to go domestically they sit one point ahead of Gerard Martino’s Catalans and just three points behind Carlo Ancelotti’s league leaders.
They progressed through the group stage with potent efficiency, winning five and drawing one to seal advancement from Group G in first spot. Recently though, they’ve shown signs of susceptibility by losing to relegation-threatened sides Osasuna and Almeria without scoring. However, they bounced back astutely; earning a hard-fought point in the Madrid derby after the unstoppable Cristiano Ronaldo rescued a point for Los Blancos late on before recording a comfortable win away to Celta Vigo this weekend.
But while Atletico appear to be a phoenix rising from the ashes, the same cannot be said for Seedorf’s Milan who have endured a torrid season domestically. Since taking over from Massimiliano Allegri earlier this year, the Dutchman has struggled to improve his former club’s fortunes and they remain in mid-table after suffering back-to-back losses in the lead up to his most important game in management so far.
Champions League success is now the Italian giants’ only chance of silverware with Juventus – like Bayern Munich- running away with the league title. Although Madrid boast a phenomenal home record this season that’s seen them remain unbeaten at the Vicente Calderon throughout the 2013/14 campaign, the nature of their slender deficit will give the likes of Mario Balotelli and co hope of sealing an unlikely quarter-final spot for the seven-time European Cup winners.
KICK-OFF: Tuesday, 7.45pm
2014: AC Milan 0 Atletico Madrid 1 (Diego Costa)
- The last-16 first-leg encounter between these two was the first time they’d ever faced each other
- AC Milan have lost five of their last six games, including the 1-0 first-leg defeat
- Simone’s side have never won the Champions League but won two Europa League titles in three years between 2010 and 2012
- Their best finish in this competition came during the 1973/74 season when they finished runners-up to Bayern Munich
- Since winning the Champions League in 2007, Milan have only progressed past the round of last 16 once
Atletico to win: 1.49
AC Milan to win: 7.6
TV: Sky Sports 3, 7.45pm