With hopes of retaining their Spanish league title fading like a punch-drunk boxer in the final rounds, Atletico Madrid look vulnerable to a Champions League knock-out blow from Bayer Leverkusen to compound their current woes.
Last season’s finalists have hit a rut domestically, slipping nine points adrift of Barcelona’s lead and it’s the lack of goals at the heart of their dodgy streak which could well produce a premature end to Atletico’s European journey.
A frustrating night at the BayArena saw Diego Simeone’s side succumb to a 1-0 loss in which influential midfielder Tiago collected a needless second yellow to leave the Spanish side chasing an equaliser a man light for the final 15 minutes.
Since losing to Leverkusen, the Spanish hosts have mustered a single goal in their intervening three games, drawing on each occasion.
Perhaps with Fernando Torres afforded line-leading duties in two of those three clashes it should come as little surprise that the goals have dried up like a sultana left in the sun.
In stark contrast, Roger Schmidt’s fourth-place Bundesliga side have gone from strength to strength in the four games to have ensued since.
They’ve scored 10 and conceded none in that time, albeit two arrived in extra time of a German Cup clash against Kaiserslautern.
Such steely resistance looks set to reward one of the tournament’s surprise packages with one of the biggest scalps of the first knockout stage, where a 0-0 would suffice.
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