Atletico Madrid in danger of elimination

AP, Tuesday 14 Dec 2010

Forlan needs to come up with magic on Thursday at Bayer Leverkusen if defending champion Atletico Madrid is to make it into the last 32 of the Europa League. Even that, though, may not be enough.

Atletico Madrid
Forlan is in a hard mission (Photo: Reuters)

Diego Forlan needs to come up with another night of magic on Thursday at Bayer Leverkusen if defending champion Atletico Madrid is to make it into the last 32 of the Europa League, and even that may not be enough.

Atletico must do better than Aris, who plays at home against Rosenborg, to become one of the top two teams to advance from Group B.

In his last trip to Germany, Forlan was the star of Atletico's 2-1 win in last season's final over Fulham in Hamburg, scoring both goals. It was the first final of the competition that succeeded the UEFA Cup.

Aris completed a double over Atletico by rallying to a 3-2 win in the Spanish capital two weeks ago and has a better head-to-head record. Consequently, Atletico must finish above Aris on points to qualify.

"What happened (against Aris) won't happen again," said Atletico striker Sergio Aguero, in reference to his side squandering a 2-1 lead in the home loss to Aris. Aris then won 1-0 at home.

Tensions are running high as Atletico's European future in the balance, with Forlan and Mario Suarez seen tussling during a training session on Monday.

Forlan has six goals in the Spanish league this season. He played for Manchester United when it was eliminated in the Champions League semifinals in 2002 by Leverkusen and he nearly scored a goal that would have taken United to the final but had his shot cleared off the line.

Leverkusen is second in the Bundesliga and is coming off a 4-2 win at Hamburg. It is the only team to have beaten Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga this season.

Guided by veteran coach Jupp Heynckes, Leverkusen has easily qualified for the last 32. It remained undefeated, conceding only one goal in five games.

That goal came in the 1-1 draw against Atletico in Madrid and was scored by Simao.

Atletico's chance may be that Leverkusen is likely to be more concerned about not falling further behind Dortmund in the Bundesliga, where the gap is now 11 points.

Although Leverkusen has had to deal with a series of injuries to key players, Heynckes' team has flourished, carried on by Arturo Vidal and Renato Augusto, and the breakthrough of Sidney Sam, who has scored six times in the Bundesliga.

But Leverkusen will be without goalkeeper Rene Adler, who is starting his Christmas vacation early to deal with a knee injury. His backup, Fabian Giefer, will be in goal.

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