Do you remember that Cilit Bang advert? The one that went ‘BANG! And the dirt is gone’.
Of course you do. It’s tattooed on the inside of our brains. Well, did you know that Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone was originally lined up to be the face of the campaign, such was his worldwide reputation for cleanliness?
There’s not another manager on the planet who treasures a clean sheet as much as El Cholo. Simeone would sell Antoine Griezmann’s grandma for a gritty 1-0 win.
Simeone’s crowning moment came when he masterminded Atletico’s safe passage through the round of 16 knockout stages in 2016 without a single goal being scored.
Atletico and PSV slugged it out for a historic 210 minutes of football only a mother could love before a penalty shootout sent the Spaniards through. It was the first time in Champions League history such a result had taken place in the round of 16, and hasn’t been repeated since.
Juanfran- who scored the winning penalty that night and would go on to miss the vital spot-kick in the final against Real Madrid- has since been replaced in Simeone’s starting XI by Santiago Arias, scorer of PSV’s penultimate penalty in the shootout. How about that for a bit of symmetry?
Other than that, and a shiny new 68,000-seater stadium, not much has changed at the club ahead of Atletico’s latest Champions League round of 16 challenge.
Juventus have replaced PSV as the opposition, but Jan Oblak, Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez are likely to be at the heart of Atletico’s defence, as they were against PSV three years ago.
Add Juve’s impregnable centre-back duo of Leonard Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini into the mix and you can see how defensive purists could get carried away with thoughts of another 210 minutes of goalless football.
This is, after all, Europe’s joint-second best defence facing off against the fifth best rearguard in the ‘top-five’ leagues.
That heavy breathing you can hear is the sound of an increasingly excited Simeone.
But there’s one man who could ruin the chess game before a pawn is even moved- Cristiano Ronaldo.
In 31 encounters with Atletico, all of which came while playing for arch-rivals Real, Ronaldo has scored 22 goals and provided a further eight assists. Ominsouly, six Champions League games have resulted in four goals- one of which came in the 2014 final- and three assists.
The 2015 Spanish Super Cup was the only time Atletico stopped Ronaldo from scoring over two legs, although he was only on the pitch for 90 minutes. Godin, Juanfran, Saul Niguez, Koke and Antoine Griezmann are the only survivors from that occasion.
Atletico’s back four will need more than a spray of Cilit Bang to keep Ronaldo and co quiet over two legs.
But, with Simeone at the helm, anything is possible. This is a man whom Getafe are yet to score against in 15 attempts. He’s the master of setting up his house to survive a storm.
Juventus are yet to score against an Atletico side managed by Simeone. The last time the Old Lady soiled the 48-year-old’s sheets he was managing Catania and Alessandro Del Piero was still leading Juventus’ attack.
All the omens are there. Lump on a 7-7 draw.
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