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Consider betting the moneyline if you have a strong preference for either team, but we have opted for the goals market as we think the result is too tough to call. For more detailed analysis of how to bet on soccer, check out our guide.
A 4-2 victory over Leeds United on Sunday made it nine games unbeaten in all competitions for Manchester United. That might come as a surprise, as it does not necessarily feel like the Red Devils have been invincible of late. The run includes a draw with Middlesbrough in the FA Cup which was followed by a penalty shoot-out defeat, as United crashed out in the fourth round. It also features disappointing 1-1 draws with Burnley and Southampton, two teams with markedly inferior squads to the one at Ralf Rangnick’s disposal.
The German, in fairness, has made improvements since taking over an interim basis at the end of November. The Ole Gunnar Solskjaer experiment had to be brought to an end, and although Rangnick has relatively little recent experience of being out on the touchline, his tactical acumen cannot be questioned. United are a better coached team now, but they are still some way off being ready to challenge Manchester City and Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.
Perhaps, though, they could be competitive in the Champions League. Their squad is certainly among the strongest in the competition on paper. Soccer is played on grass, of course, but in Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho United have a collection of attackers who can turn a game on its head with a moment of magic. Real Madrid under Zinedine Zidane proved that a team of star players can go all the way in the Champions League without an overarching tactical identity.
That is what United will be hoping to do, but they are clearly outsiders to lift the trophy. Rangnick has not yet been able to cut out the in-game lapses that have regularly undone United this season. Consistency within matches, never mind between them, remains elusive. United are not there yet.
This has been a difficult season for Atletico Madrid. The defending champions were widely tipped to retain the La Liga title this term. Barcelona began the campaign in disarray after losing Lionel Messi, their greatest ever player, in the summer. Real Madrid parted with Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos, their long-term center-back duo, and Zidane, their most successful manager of the modern era. Atletico had stability and the most talented squad of the Diego Simeone era.
But that has proved to be a curse as much as a blessing. It is true that Simeone has more strength in depth now that at any other point in his decade-long tenure. Yet he has struggled to juggle all his options and produce a team that is more than the sum of its parts.
Simeone is still searching for the right blend in attack. At the other end of the field, Atletico are conceding far too many goals. Incredibly, the team with the most watertight backline in five of the last six La Liga seasons currently has the joint-eighth worst defensive record in the division.
Atletico only scraped into the knockout stage of the Champions League. They have lost four of their last seven matches in all competitions. This would appear to be a good time to face Simeone’s side.
Atletico’s aforementioned poor defensive record is the surest sign that things are not right at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano. Simeone has always prided himself on his team’s solid organization without the ball. Even the very best attacks in world soccer have had to work extremely hard to break Atletico down.
That has not been the case this season. Atletico have kept one clean sheet in their last six La Liga outings, during which time their backline has been breached 12 times. They managed only one shut-out in an admittedly difficult Champions League group before Christmas. United should have plenty of joy against an out-of-sorts Atletico defense.
However, the Red Devils have some issues of their own at the back. Harry Maguire’s form has rightly been questioned. The lack of a natural holding midfielder means United’s opponents are given ample space to break into. In their last 10 Premier League games Rangnick’s charges have kept a clean sheet just twice. David de Gea has bailed his team out on countless occasions.
Champions League knockout games are often cagey, but both teams’ defensive deficiencies means it is worth backing over 2.5 goals here.
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|Atletico Madrid vs Manchester United Information|
|Teams||Atletico Madrid vs Manchester United|
|Location||Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain|
|Time||Wednesday, 23 February 2022, 3.00 PM EST|
|How to watch||Paramount+|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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