Griezmann proves his class by leading Atletico Madrid to victory vs. Leicester
MADRID -- Three quick thoughts from Atletico Madrid's 1-0 Champions League win over Leicester City at the Vicente Calderon on Wednesday.
1. Griezmann proves his class in Atleti win
There was an air of inevitability about Antoine Griezmann scoring the decisive goal to lead Atletico Madrid to a 1-0 quarterfinal first-leg victory over Leicester City in the Estadio Vicente Calderon.
The French forward is unquestionably the man of the moment in European football, with his first-half penalty -- after being tripped outside the box by Marc Albrighton -- adding to his goal in Saturday's 1-1 draw against Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu.
Griezmann is a special player, which is why Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid are all so determined to lure him away from Atletico this summer.
His goal against Leicester was his fifth in the Champions League this season, but the 26-year-old is about more than simply putting the ball in the back of the net.
His movement is exceptional, and Leicester were unable to shackle him during a draining 90 minutes that saw them struggle to test Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak with anything likely to trouble the Slovenia No. 1.
If this was a test of his ability to perform against a Premier League opponent ahead of a possible move to Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge this summer, Griezmann passed it with ease.
The big question: Where is his best position?
Griezmann is a not a centre-forward in the mould of Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Diego Costa, the two players he is most likely to replace if he moves to England, but he is also more than a No. 10 because he will happily move to the left or right flank, as well as the hole behind the centre-forward, to find the ball.
And while he may lack physical presence, it did not count against him against Leicester's players.
Atletico clearly have a star on their hands in Griezmann, but every Champions League goal he scores makes it that little bit harder to hold onto him.
2. Huth booking compounds bad night for Foxes
It was one of those nights when little or nothing went right for Leicester City and interim-manager Craig Shakespeare, other than the narrow margin of Atletico Madrid's victory.
Tactically, Claudio Ranieri's temporary successor failed to come up with a game plan to worry Atletico coach Diego Simeone, but while Leicester were able to ensure that they kept the tie alive for next Tuesday's second leg at the King Power Stadium, the loss of centre-half Robert Huth due to a booking received in the second half means the Premier League champions' task has become so much more difficult.
With captain Wes Morgan rated as increasingly doubtful for the return game as a result of the back injury that kept him out of the first leg, Shakespeare will have to prepare to face Atletico without the centre-halves who proved so crucial in last season's title success.
From Leicester's perspective, Huth and Morgan are irreplaceable in terms of their experience and leadership. Yohan Benalouane will have to form a makeshift defensive partnership with full-back Christian Fuchs or Daniel Amartey against Fernando Torres and Griezmann in a game Leicester must win.
And that is where Shakespeare faces another challenge, because his tactics in the Vicente Calderon were, in short, hit and hope.
Atletico dominated possession and on the rare occasions that Leicester were able to escape their own half, Jamie Vardy was isolated on his own up front.
Shakespeare will have to take risks next Tuesday, but with his two best centre-halves missing, it will be hugely difficult to conjure up the game plan to secure the victory required against such a lethal counter-attacking team as Atletico.
3. The Calderon will be sorely missed
Whether this is the final Champions League fixture to be played at Estadio Vicente Calderon, or if Atletico give the old ground one last big night in the semifinals next month, the creaking stadium that straddles a motorway on the banks of the River Manzanares will be sorely missed when the club leaves for a new 67,000-seat arena this summer.
The Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, 13 miles away on the outskirts of Madrid, will see Atleti join the super clubs with a 21st-century stadium to rival any in Europe, but it will be a tall order to expect the new ground to match the Calderon for atmosphere.
Simeone's team reflects its current surroundings -- tough, passionate, committed and unpretentious -- and it shakes when the crowd roars to celebrate an Atleti goal.
It is an anomaly in the glitzy surroundings of the Champions League, but no visiting team enjoys coming here and when Atleti leave it behind, they will miss it. So will the Champions League.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_