29.08.2019Champions League

Ronaldo, Joao Félix and Corluka: Our UCL opponents

Bayer 04 meet Juventus, Atlético Madrid and Locomotiv Moscow in Group D of the UEFA Champions League. A brief profile of our three opponents:


The ‘Old Lady’ again won the double in Italy. Juve have won the Scudetto 35 times, the last eight times in succession, and the Italian domestic cup competition 13 times. They have also been successful on the European stage and, alongside Bayern Munich, Ajax and Barcelona, Juve have won all three European trophies; Champions League winners 1996, European Cup winners 1985, Intercontinental Cup winners 1997 and 1986, UEFA Cup winners 1997 and 1985, European Cup Winners' Cup winners 1984.

Juve's current team, coached by Maurizio Sarri, want to be crowned champions of Europe again. Last season, Juventus knocked out Atletico Madrid (0-2 and 3-0) before a surprise exit against Ajax in the quarter-finals (1-1 and 1-2). Juve's team reads like a world eleven, led by record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo (126 goals in 162 UCL games). The most spectacular transfer this season was central defender Matthis de Ligt who was signed from Ajax for €85 million. And other names also speak for themselves: Szczesny and Buffon in goal,Bonucci and Chiellini in defence, Emre Can and Sami Khedira, Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabot in midfield, Douglas Costa, Juan Cuadrado, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain in attack.

Stadium: Allianz Stadium, 41,507 capacity

Atlético Madrid

With this opponent for Bayer 04, the temptation is to think of the film Groundhog Day: The Werkself are set to meet Atlético for the fourth time on the European stage. In the Champions League campaign of 2016/17 it was the end of the road for the Black and Reds against the Madrid side in the Round of 16 (2-4 and 0-0) as it was two years before (1-0 and 0-1) in a dramatic penalty shootout at the Estadio Vicente Calderón (2-4). The two teams first met in the group matches in the Europa League in 2010/11 (1-1 and 1-1). Last season Atlético lost to Juve in the Champions League Round of 16 and they finished runners-up to Barca in La Liga.

The Argentinian Diego Simeone has been the coach at Atletico for the last nine years and he is well known from the recent encounters with the Werkself. The Colchoneros, ten times champions and cup winners in Spain, three times Europa League winners (most recently in 2018) and Intercontinental Cup winners (1975), have made significant changes to the squad in the summer: Antoine Griezmann (Barca/€120 million), Lucas Hernández (FC Bayern/€80 million), Rodri (Manchester City/€70 million), Gelson Martins (Monaco/€30 million) brought in huge transfer fees while stalwarts like Filipe Luis (Flamengo), Diego Godin (inter Milan) and Juanfran (São Paulo) moved on free transfers. The most spectacular new signing is Joao Félix who was brought in from Benfica as a successor to Griezmann for €126 million. Other top stars: Goalkeeper Jan Oblak, Saúl Niguez and Koke in midfield, Diego Costa and Àlvaro Morata in attack.

Stadium: Wanda Metropolitano, 67,829 capacity

Lokomotiv MosCOW

The team from the Russian capital is the unknown quantity in Group D for Bayer 04. Last season, Lokomotiv finished runners-up to Zenit Saint Petersburg in the league and won the Russian cup with a 1-0 victory over Ural Jekaterinburg. The club has won the domestic cup competition ten times and the league title three times. Lokomotiv Moscow went out at the group stage of the Champions League last term including two defeats against Schalke 04 (0-1 and 0-1). The only victory in the group stage with a 2-0 win against Galatasaray with the other five matches producing any points.

The team coached by Juri Sjomin includes several players known to the Bundesliga. The now 33-year-old central defender and full-back Vedran Corluka played for the Werkself making seven appearances in the Bundesliga for Bayer 04 in 2012. Two former Schalke players are established stalwarts in the Lokomotiv squad: Defender and World Cup winner Benedikt Höwedes (31) and winger Jefferson Farfán (34). Midfielder Joao Mário and striker Èder, both European Championship winners with Portugal in 2016, are two other internationally experienced players at the Moscow club.

Stadium: RZD Arena, 27,320 capacity


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