Defending European champions Real Madrid want to make the most of home advantage in tonight’s first leg UEFA Champions League semifinal at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
The second leg is next week at the Vicente Calderon, where Atletico Madrid have thrived with 29 wins in 35 games in European competitions. Real Madrid are trying to beat Atletico Madrid in the Champions League for the fourth straight time. It defeated the city rivals in the final both in 2014 and 2016, and also in the quarterfinals in 2015.
There are two Champions League obstacles for Atletico Madrid to overcome over the next few weeks, with Los Rojiblancos fighting to secure automatic qualification for next season’s edition at the same time as they challenge Real Madrid for a ticket to this year’s final in Cardiff.
This Saturday, the focus is on the former, given that Los Colchoneros cannot concede an inch to Sevilla in the battle for third after falling to Villarreal last Tuesday night.
They pay a visit to the Canary Islands to take on Las Palmas and currently have their third place fate in their own hands, but failure to bring all three points back to the mainland would open the door for Jorge Sampaoli’s men.
Although Las Palmas are a tricky team when they play at home, it should be an advantage for the capital city side that Quique Setien’s players have little left to play for, with the team safe from relegation but too far behind to challenge for Europe.
That said, the injuries to Augusto Fernandez, Juanfran, Sime Vrsaljko and Yannick Carrasco, along with the suspension of Diego Godin, have left Diego Simeone with limited options and there can be no room for complacency.
The same will be true of their final three league matches, at home to Eibar and Athletic Club and away to Real Betis, three games that will, along with the Champions League semi-final, determine if 2016/17 is a season to remember or to forget for Atletico.