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Champions League Q&A: Into the Calderon

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Club Atletico de Madrid v Real Betis Balompie - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Q1: Who’s your most dangerous player who we haven’t heard about?

A: I’d probably give that distinction to Angel Correa. The wildly-skilled Argentine is Diego Simeone’s super sub and he can play as a winger or a second striker. He’s a really streaky player and his end product isn’t always there, but he is a specialist at turning up the heat late in games against tired defenses. He scores roughly every 180 minutes as a substitute, and he didn’t score against Villarreal at the weekend, so look out...

Q2: Athleti has had trouble scoring despite adding offensive firepower over the summer. How might Simeone try to fix that ?

A:. It’s a strange one, particularly in LaLiga where things have really tightened up and we’ve seen more parity than at almost any point within the past 15 years. The secret is getting out in LaLiga and more and more teams invite Atletico to break them down rather than force Atleti to defend -- which, as you may know, they are very good at doing. In Europe, though, Atleti have scored 4, 2 and 3 goals in three games, which is more than fine.

Simeone could do with more tactical flexibility and a more open style, but that’s not really him. His spots won’t change much as he works his way through a seventh full season in charge, a tenure that’s delivered every trophy but the European Cup. Getting a healthy Diego Costa back should make the system click once more and help Atleti bury more of those 3-5 big chances they get per game.

Q3: Which players from BVB are you most worried about defending against?

A: Pulisic, Reus, Sancho, Paco...BVB have lots of threatening players and this will be a major test for Jan Oblak and Atleti’s defense.

Q4: Is winning the La Liga title still a realistic goal this season?

A: Winning LaLiga is realistic, particularly considering how topsy-turvy the league seems to be this season. Atletico are in fifth right now, but just two points off the top with a few winnable games on the horizon before the next international break. If LaLiga is an 80-85 point league this year, Atleti will like their chances more as opposed to winning an 85-90 point league.

Q5: Is this season make or break for Simeone/Griezmann?

A: Simeone has a contract through next year and Griezmann’s latest transfer saga ended with him renewing to 2023. While it’s hard to say if this is truly make-or-break, I will say that there’s more pressure now to break through in the Champions League than ever before -- particularly with the landscape the way it is. Real Madrid have wobbled, Barcelona haven’t made a semifinal in three years, Bayern Munich haven’t convinced, PSG and Man City fade every spring...to many, this is the golden chance Atletico have been waiting for, not least because they’re hosting the final on June 1. It may not be the final chance Cholo and Grizi get together, but it’s likely the best chance before one (or both) move on at some point, if they move on.