Manchester United may have qualified for the Champions League last-16 with seeded status, but a draw has not been kind to Ralf Rangnick’s side.
Amongst sides to have advanced to the Champions League knock-outs as runners-up, Atletico Madrid have been the most formidable opponent of all.
Unfortunately for Man Utd, they have been drawn together with the reigning La Liga champions in one of the most mouth-watering last-16 ties.
The betting odds on the Champions League second round are already available, and some new bookmakers have United as the betting underdogs already in December. The club’s performances between now and February, as well as their January transfer activity, will have an impact on how the odds shift for this game.
Given both sides’ household status in European football, it may come as some surprise that they’ve yet to face off in the Champions League.
Diego Simeone’s side experienced a frightening Champions League group stage campaign, as they earned their place in the knock-outs only on Matchday 6.
Heading into the group phase finale, Los Rojiblancos were bottom of Group B, level on points with third-placed AC Milan and one below second-placed Porto.
So Atletico’s destiny was always going to be decided at the Estadio do Dragao, though even a victory over the Portuguese holders wouldn’t guarantee promotion to the knock-out stages.
Luckily for the Spaniards, Liverpool eked out a 2-1 win at San Siro to hand Madrid’s 3-1 victory at Porto an all-important leg-up.
An exciting last-16 tie will be an opportunity for Los Colchoneros to exact revenge on English clubs following last season’s elimination at the hands of Chelsea at this stage of the competition.
Thomas Tuchel’s side defeated the Spanish heavyweights in both last season’s last-16 legs without conceding a single goal before eventually lifting the trophy, courtesy of a 1-0 win over Manchester City in an all-English final.
Despite bowing out to Chelsea, Atletico have fond memories of their recent Champions League knock-out ties against Premier League teams.
They overcame at the time reigning Champions League holders Liverpool in the 2019/20 round of 16, prevailing in an iconic second-leg extra-time at Anfield.
In 2016/17, Madrid ousted defending Premier League champions Leicester City in the Champions League quarter-finals 2-1 on aggregate.
Moving all the way back to 2013/14, Atletico came out victorious in their semi-final tie against Chelsea before crumbling against cross-town rivals Real Madrid in the grand final.
Therefore, it’s safe to say the Spaniards will relish the prospect of facing Man United in the first knock-out round.
However, Simeone’s men have not had the best of times lately, especially when it comes to their domestic affairs.
A 2-0 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu in a Madrilean classic at the weekend saw Los Rojiblancos fall a whopping 13 points behind pacesetters Real.
Since they are hard to fight their way back into the La Liga title race, it’s reasonable to expect Simeone to save his best hand for the Champions League.