Atletico Madrid coach Abel Resino will hoping his team can put their domestic travails behind them when they face Porto in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie on Tuesday.
Javier Aguirre, who had led the Madrid club back into Europe’s elite competition after a 12-year absence, made way for former Atlético goalkeeper Resino as a result of their poor run and the new man is hoping his side will rise to the occasion tonight.
“We’re facing a big team and big teams are always very dangerous,” Resino said.
Atlético have lost six of their last ten matches in all competitions, yet Resino is confident they will lift themselves for the visit of Porto.
“If we want to get through, we have to go out to win,” he said. “Little by little we’re getting better. We’re trying to get back to where we were. To get through would be really satisfying but the most important thing is that the team continues improving and that the players catch on quickly to what I’m telling them.”
Atlético can draw strength from an impressive home record in the competition. They have lost just three of the 26 home matches they have played in the European Champion Clubs’ Cup, and Resino knows they must make home advantage count.
“Porto have a long tradition of quality and experience and they know how to compete,” the coach said. “Atlético have to try to win at the Vicente Calderón, there is no other option.”
The hosts welcome back Ever Banega, who missed Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Sevilla with a knee injury, but Luis García is still out with a hamstring injury. Luis Perea, victim of a fractured cheekbone against Sevilla, is suspended.
While Atletico have been struggling, the opposite is true of the 2004 UEFA Champions League winners who extended their unbeaten Liga run to 12 games on Friday, winning 2-0 at Pacos de Ferreira.
The Portuguese champions, who will be without Freddy Guarín (ankle) and Nelson Benítez (groin), have also won five of their last ten away matches in the UEFA Champions League, although coach Jesualdo Ferreira has played down claims they are favourites.
“They’ve had some difficult results lately, but just because we may be going through a better domestic run doesn’t make us favourites,” he said. “We can’t compare the two teams from their national championships.”
Porto have lost at this stage in each of the last two campaigns and Ferreira is determined to go one better this time.
“We’ll need a group effort,” he said. “We have to go into this in a positive frame of mind. The atmosphere will be difficult, but we’ll use it as a motivational tool. Knowing this is the UEFA Champions League will bring the best out of the players.”