With a long-awaited Spanish top-flight crown now in the trophy case, Atletico will endeavour to translate that domestic dominance into success on the continental stage, and they have already started as they mean to go on this term.
After taking seven points from their first three La Liga fixtures before the international break, Atletico returned to action against Espanyol on Sunday and marched to a hard-fought 2-1 success, with Thomas Lemar netting a dramatic winner nine minutes into second-half injury time following previous strikes from Yannick Carrasco and Raul de Tomas.
Atletico may not have looked all that convincing in any of their four La Liga games so far this term, but they sit level with Valencia and Real Madrid at the top of the rankings before they begin their journey to what would be a first-ever Champions League title this year.
The 2021-22 season marks Atletico’s ninth consecutive stint in the group stages of the Champions League, but they have failed to make it past the last 16 in three of the past four seasons and were sent packing at that point by eventual champions Chelsea last year.
However, that 1-0 loss to Chelsea on home soil in the first leg represents their only defeat from their last 14 Champions League matches on home soil, and seven of Atletico’s last 11 European meetings with Portuguese sides have seen them emerge victorious.
Porto’s stronghold on the Portuguese football scene was brought to an end by Sporting Lisbon in the 2020-21 season, and Sergio Conceicao’s side sought to claim an early scalp over the newly-crowned champions during Saturday’s highly-anticipated battle.
Sporting attacker Nuno Santos took just 16 minutes to open the scoring on the day before Porto’s Luis Diaz rescued a point for his side in a 1-1 draw, but both teams have now fallen four points adrift of early pace-setters Benfica, who boast five wins from five and have taken advantage of their rivals’ slip-ups.
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League fortunes aside, Porto prepare for action in the 2021-22 Champions League aiming to make the knockout rounds for the fifth time in six seasons, although a group comprising Atletico, AC Milan and Liverpool does not exactly spell optimism for Conceicao’s side.
Porto can at least boast a 15-game unbeaten run in all competitive matches since their first-leg defeat to Chelsea in last year’s quarter-finals, and the Champions League regulars can take solace in the fact that they have prevailed in four of their last five away games in the group stage