Atletico's injuries could give Real Madrid an edge in semis

Beth Cruz
May 3, 2017

MADRID (AP) - Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick to lead Real Madrid to a commanding 3-0 win over city rival Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal on Tuesday. While the most recent 2015-16 final was won by Real Madrid on penalties after 1-1 draw in normal and extra time, the 2013-14 final was far more dramatic with Sergio Ramos' 93rd minute goal ending the game at 1-1 in normal time and then Real Madrid went on to win the game 4-1 in extra time. There is no grand plan or identity; their strength still lies in big players and big moments, and that could be enough again as they take on an under-strength Atletico Madrid, who are getting used to disappointment when facing their rivals in Europe.

Real Madrid already tried three times to beat Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

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In the biggest games (against Real, Atleti, Barcelona and key European fixtures), Griezmann has four goals this season from 10 matches; Ronaldo has nine in 10.

Atletico only had one shot on target and will need to pull off one of the Champions League's all-time special performances to stop double-chasing Real from ending their European dreams for the fourth straight season.

Atletico's back line has been depleted because of a series of injuries and coach Diego Simeone will have to improvise when his team takes on Real Madrid's powerful attack in Tuesday's first leg of their semifinal. On April 8, Real Madrid drew 1-1 at home with Atletico.

The French striker grabbed a goal the last time the two sides met, and will be fancying his chances to snatch an away goal for his side.

"You tell them what you expect from them and the role they have to play".

Atletico lost in La Liga last Thursday 1-0 to Villarreal but bounced back with a 5-0 victory Saturday over Las Palmas. "Many times an important player can be missing an the team overcomes that loss".

"I got a lot of assists but I just passed the ball and didn't have their goalscoring ability, so I never had the same feeling - that thrill of the ball hitting the net - as them".

Real Madrid, alongside Juventus, are the only unbeaten team in this season's Champions League (W7 D3). The onus will be on the Rojiblancos forward to get the goals against a resolute Real attack.

Atletico boss Diego Simeone has been forced into a defensive reshuffle by the absence of Sime Vrsaljko, Juanfran and Jose Maria Gimenez through injury.

Previous year saw Atleti come within sight of glory once again before seeing it snatched away - this time on penalties, again to Real.

Atletico Madrid might not be able to rely on its mighty defense when it makes another run for the CL title.

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