Matt Elliott was part of the Leicester team which was knocked out of the UEFA Cup by Atletico Madrid in 1997. Now, as the two clubs prepare to meet again in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final, the former defender gives us his Atletico Madrid vs Leicester prediction.
On whether the draw was good for Leicester…
“My initial reaction was surprise. It was so uncanny that in Leicester’s three ventures in Europe they find themselves drawn up against Atletico Madrid. I played in the team 20 years ago that went out to them and the team in 1961 also went out to them, so I hope this current crop can make it third time lucky.
“There’s a nice bit of history between the two clubs, especially from Leicester’s side, and some City fans might be in a position to have watched all three ties between the two clubs.
“It’s an exciting challenge, facing a very accomplished team – seasoned campaigners – and it’s going to be incredibly tough. I’m not going to lie, there were better suitors out there with the likes of Monaco in the mix, but this will be a war of attrition and I think a lot of people expect it to be that type of game.
“It’s a similar match in terms of the way the teams set up but they have immense quality. However, as always, you can never rule out Leicester City – it’s a really intriguing tie.”
On whether there are any weaknesses in Atletico’s game to exploit…
“The biggest problem playing Atletico is that they have little to no weaknesses, they are minimal. They aren’t the free-flowing attacking team that Barcelona and Real Madrid are who could get hurt on the counter, they grind out results and make it incredibly hard for any team to beat them.
“I think the one thing Leicester can hope is that Simeone will have to change the shape and style to attack Leicester. At home in front of their own fans, I’m sure there will be pressure on him to put on a show against the Foxes, so that could play into Leicester’s favour.
“Leicester only really know how to play one way, sit back and remain organised and then hit teams on the counter with pace, it’s their forte. It’s whether Atletico will give them a chance to do so.
“Simeone is a wily coach and he knows not to play to Leicester’s strengths. I think there’s potential to pinch a goal to take back to the King Power, where Leicester can shock Atletico.”
On Antoine Griezmann’s comments about it not being a nice game to watch for the neutral…
“Most are of the opinion it will be a tough, rugged battle type game with no flamboyancy. However there could be a flurry of goals through set-pieces, so you never know. By and large it will be a dogged affair, a battle to the very last, and I hope that they give themselves a chance in the second leg by not being out of it in the first.
“Both teams have a natural style to be compact, rigid and workmanlike to seize opportunities when they come along so there are a lot of similarities in both teams.”
On Wes Morgan’s absence for the fixture and the impact this will have on the squad…
“Yohan Benalouane has stepped in to the frame for the last four games and acquitted himself well in the first three, but it’s fair to say he didn’t cover himself in glory in the game against Everton.
“If it’s a straight choice between Morgan and Benalouane, Morgan wins it hands down, but don’t get me wrong Benalouane is certainly capable. With Wes you have more dependability and consistency, and he has forged a partnership with Huth for some time now.
“Wes will be missed not only for his ability but also his leadership qualities and the players respect him. Benalouane can perhaps be a little rash and over-keen at times, but hopefully his enthusiasm and recklessness will be tempered a little bit and he can fulfil the role.
“I don’t think Wes’s absence will have an effect on the team but you’d rather have him than not. Those players should be so pumped up and excited, I’m sure they’ll put on a performance regardless of who is playing centre-back.
“Given Wes has been out for a few games I don’t think it would be as much of an issue as it would be if he pulled out last minute. Benalouane doesn’t give you that same confidence but you haven’t got time to consider that, just hope that each player fulfils his role and you have confidence in your team-mates.”
On the similarities between Craig Shakespeare and Diego Simeone…
“They’re very different in terms of personalities but the way they set up their teams is very similar. I think what they both do well is understand the strengths and limitations of their team, and set up their teams to minimise this.
“Ranieri did that brilliantly last season but tried to tinker with the set-up, which didn’t suit the players, and they struggled as a result. I think this 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2 formation that they both like to play will match up nicely. Unlike Jorge Sampaoli, I’m certain Diego Simeone won’t take Leicester as lightly.”
On Wednesday night’s Atletico Madrid vs Leicester prediction and the return leg…
“I think it will be 2-1 at the Vicente Calderon and then Leicester will win 2-1 at the King Power to take it to extra time, with Leicester winning on penalties.”