Amid the furore of Real Madrid's quite astonishing great escape in the Champions League – well, their latest – it's easy to forget they only won the Spanish title last weekend.

Of course, it had been long foreseen, but Madrid's 35th LaLiga crown was secured with their 4-0 win over Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu, leading to a party that had Marcelo climbing statues, Carlo Ancelotti smoking a cigar and David Alaba getting his chair out again.

With a record-extending 17th Champions League final appearance wrapped up, Madrid can turn their attention back to LaLiga knowing they still have a reason to keep themselves sharp, and they could yet equal their best points tally (93) since reaching 100 in 2011-12.

Fittingly, their first league match as champions comes against the team they ousted, with bitter rivals Atletico Madrid playing host to Los Blancos at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday.

While that match has taken a back seat over the past few days, in Spain there has been a debate centred on the derby rumbling in the background for some time now.

As champions, Madrid might feel entitled to a pasillo, or 'guard of honour' – but they won't get one.

'A public toll'

While the guard of honour is a tradition with deep roots in sport, there's little doubt that it's a polarising gesture.

A mark of respect, perhaps, but more and more it is seen as a tool of humiliation, particularly when expected in such contests between major rivals.

The decision was down to Atletico's decision makers rather than the players, though captain Jan Oblak made his feelings perfectly clear after their defeat to Athletic Bilbao last weekend.

He said: "As captain, I'm one of those who doesn't like to give or receive the guard of honour, but the club will decide and we'll do whatever is necessary."

Atletico subsequently released a statement on Monday confirming they'll not participate, with their strong response claiming the recent debate was stirred purely to stoke anger between fanbases.

They said: "Some want to turn what was born as a gesture of recognition for the champion into a public toll that their rivals must pay, also impregnated with the aroma of humiliation. Under no concept are Atletico Madrid going to collaborate in this attempt at derision in which the true values ​​of sport are completely forgotten and tension and confrontation between the fans is encouraged."

Additionally, Atletico suggested there was no such debate around Celta Vigo's decision not to give them a guard of honour at the start of this season, with the controversy around the upcoming derby "exaggerated and artificial".

Some might feel Atletico's disdain for the tradition is disrespectful, but there is refreshing sentiment behind their stance as well: not every mark of respect needs to be accompanied by a performative gesture.

In this age of obsessing over social media engagement, there seems a need to turn normal behaviour into a song and dance, the classic example being the tidy changing room photo. "That's class" or "respect [clapping emoji]" litter the replies on Twitter – it's not, it's just common courtesy.

If Atletico players, officials, coaches or fans wish to congratulate Madrid, it doesn't require a forced gesture.

Madrid's refusal

This is by no means the first time Madrid have been involved in guard of honour controversy. Four years ago, the debate around the pasillo was arguably at its zenith.

Barcelona had won the title prior to facing Madrid in El Clasico, meaning there were those in the Blaugrana ranks expecting a show of respect at Camp Nou.

But Madrid refused. Zinedine Zidane, coach at the time, pointed the finger. He suggested they might have reciprocated had Barca given them a guard of honour a few months earlier when Los Blancos won the Club World Cup.

Barca's justification then was that they didn't play in the Club World Cup so didn't need to acknowledge Madrid's success – not that Zidane was buying the excuse.

"It's a lie," he said. "You have to win the Champions League to play in the Club World Cup. I am not the one to decide that we don't want to do the pasillo. They didn't do it, we respect that; we'll not do it because they didn't do it."

Gerard Pique, true to form, found a novel way to get around the issue while simultaneously highlighting Madrid's refusal – he arranged for Barca's coaching staff to give the players a pasillo instead at full-time.

Had Sergio Ramos still been at Madrid, one might have been expecting a similar arrangement for Sunday.

'Party of the champions'

The only other time this century that the pasillo has been such a contentious subject was in 2008, when Madrid did receive one in El Clasico.

The 2007-08 season was a dire one for Barca. Not only did Madrid win the title comfortably with 18 points more than their great rivals, but Frank Rijkaard's men also finished 10 points adrift of second-placed Villarreal.

 

Although Barca crushed Valencia 6-0 leading up to the Clasico clash on May 7, 2008, they were unable to prevent Madrid claiming the title, setting things up perfectly for the ultimate humiliation.

"The party of the champions", read the front page of Madrid-based daily newspaper AS on the morning of the game. Notoriously pro-Madrid Marca went with "Barca is here", accompanying a picture showing where the visitors were due to form their guard of honour. And Catalan publication Sport highlighted the other side of things, saying, "the pasillo that suffers alone", and adding, "Barca fans do not deserve to have to see the pasillo".

Despite the shameless nose-rubbing of the Madrid press and the intense humiliation that was about to befall them, Barca gritted their teeth. "Although it hurts, we will do it," Rijkaard said.

Club captain Carles Puyol sang from a similar hymn sheet: "As an athlete you have to recognise the champion, and we will do that. They have won it on the pitch. Real Madrid have been fair champions."

The emotions of the two coaches that night could not have been more different. Rijkaard slowly ambled out and took his position, hands together behind his back, before the Barca players jogged out and formed two columns either side of the halfway line, the cameras of the Bernabeu crowd incessantly flashing with glee.

Meanwhile, Bernd Schuster watched on as his Madrid side triumphantly walked through that red-and-blue-walled corridor, twenty years after he was a part of the last guard of honour Barca performed in El Clasico, wearing a Blaugrana jersey.

Some, such as Pepe, Fernando Gago and Wesley Sneijder walked straight down the middle, seemingly preserving the thoughts of a true rivalry by refusing to thank their counterparts for the degrading act of a Clasico pasillo, but looking back, that was the least embarrassing part of the whole night for Barca.

What started with a pasillo ended in a pasting, with Barca flattered by a 4-1 defeat in which Madrid were utterly dominant.

Atletico will at least avoid one form of humiliation, but considering the contrasting fortunes of the two teams on the pitch this term, it's hardly a given that Diego Simeone's side will prevent a mauling.

Diego Simeone is ready to accept responsibility if Atletico Madrid fail to qualify for the Champions League.

On the day Atleti saw their LaLiga crown taken by bitter rivals Real Madrid, they suffered a potentially damaging 2-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao at San Mames.

They remained in fourth after the defeat, yet fifth-placed Real Betis can cut the gap to just a point if they overcome Getafe on Monday.

Los Colchoneros face a tough run-in that sees them play champions Madrid, Sevilla and Real Sociedad in three of their four remaining games.

Asked at a media conference if he was worried about not securing a top-four spot, Simeone said: "It occupies me. You have to know how to be in difficult moments and there have been a few in recent years. 

"We will see who is up for this difficult moment. The responsibility rests with me. I am the first one responsible for whether it happens or not.

"Everyone needs to stay calm, there are four games left."

 

Athletic were good value for their win, which came courtesy of an early Mario Hermoso own goal and a second-half penalty from Inaki Williams.

The result meant Atleti have now failed to score in their past two LaLiga games – the first time they have done that since October 2020 when they drew blanks against Huesca and Villarreal.

Simeone had no complaints with his side's effort, though, and said there is no lack of desire to achieve a top-four spot.

"The first few minutes weren't good, then the team improved," he said. "Their first goal hit Hermoso and went in; Carrasco's strike does the same but goes wide. These are the small details that matter.

"If you see how they train, how they work and commit to doing what we say, then there is nothing to say. There is no lack of commitment or intensity.

"There is anxiety and the desire to achieve the goal of the club."

Atleti are next in action on May 8 when they host Los Blancos in El Derbi at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Atletico Madrid missed the chance to strengthen their grip on a Champions League qualification place after they slipped to a 2-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

On the day Atletico saw their LaLiga crown taken by bitter rivals Real Madrid, Diego Simeone's men started sluggishly and were duly punished inside 10 minutes when Mario Hermoso turned Inaki Williams' cross into his own net.

Williams, who was a constant threat, then sealed all three points in the 56th minute from the penalty spot. 

Atletico remain in fourth, yet fifth-placed Real Betis can cut the gap to just a point if they overcome Getafe on Monday. Athletic, meanwhile, remain eighth.

Athletic's bright start was rewarded in the eighth minute when Hermoso deflected Williams' cross past Jan Oblak after the forward outmuscled Jose Gimenez.

Williams came agonisingly close to scoring for himself soon after, the 27-year-old's inswinging cross from the left missing everyone and bouncing off Oblak's left-hand post.

Geoffrey Kondogbia flashed wide as Atleti woke from their slumber shortly before the interval, while Yannick Carrasco saw an effort deflected just past Unai Simon's upright after a surging run.

Athletic doubled their advantage a few moments after Antoine Griezmann had thundered a free-kick against the crossbar, Williams clipping his spot-kick down the middle after Hector Herrera had brought down Iker Muniain just inside the area. 

Muniain and Nico Williams were denied in quick succession by Oblak as Athletic looked to add further gloss to the scoreline, while Angel Correa saw an effort deflected against the post deep into stoppage time for luckless Atletico.

 

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone backed "one of the best in the world" Antoine Griezmann to return to form, while he offered his support for Luis Suarez amid a lean spell.

Simeone's side sit fourth in LaLiga, four points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis and appear set to secure Champions League qualification.

However, the form of forward Griezmann and the out of favour Suarez has come under scrutiny in the absence of the injured Joao Felix.

Griezmann has just three LaLiga goals in 21 appearances this season, finding the net once every 448 minutes on average, and has not scored in his last eight league games.

But Simeone insists the France international needs just one strike to regain his confidence as Atletico prepare to visit Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

"Antoine is not converting goals in recent games, his performances have not been what he is accustomed to," Simeone told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Friday.

"He is one of the players with the most goals in the history of Atletico... He always works, he is always committed to the collective work of the team, I have no doubt that he will come out of this situation. 

"It's Griezmann, one of the best in the world, what he needs is to find a goal, which will give him confidence. From that, we will see the Griezmann who we were used to in previous years."

Only Fernando Torres (102 in 281 games) has more goals than Griezmann for Atletico in LaLiga history, the latter scoring 97 times in his 201 appearances for the club.

 

Suarez's form has also been a concern for Simeone, with the Uruguay international limited to appearances from the bench and scoring just twice in his last seven league games (both against Alaves).

The former Liverpool and Barcelona talisman is still Atletico's joint-top scorer this season, his 11 LaLiga goals only matched by Angel Correa, and Simeone hopes Suarez will soon find his feet again.

"I have no doubt that Luis will always score goals, with his team-mates, when he plays, in the Uruguayan team... because he has the ability to score," Simeone added.

"Hopefully if he comes in from the start or comes on in the game, he will make his mark on them. It's what he wants, what he feels, and what he lives off."

Suarez has failed to score in his last five away games against Athletic in the Spanish top flight, having previously netted on his first two visits to San Mames in LaLiga – both in 2015 with Barcelona.

Whether Suarez can regain his confidence against Marcelino's side remains to be seen, but Simeone knows the Basque side will pose a tough task.

"Marcelino is a very good coach, he makes his teams play well and that makes them complex to face," he continued.

"Also, whenever we have faced him he has very good teams, which usually have very good footballers. 

"This means that the matches are tight due to the characteristics of the team that Marcelino creates. I can't imagine a match that isn't tight."

Diego Simeone explained Atletico Madrid's lack of "brilliance" in Wednesday's disappointing draw with Granada was down to fatigue.

Atletico were held to a goalless stalemate by struggling Granada at the Wanda Metropolitano, doing little to improve Los Colchoneros' Champions League qualification hopes.

Although the draw did move them up to second, Barcelona and Sevilla – both a point behind – each have at least one game in hand, while their inability to win ensured Atletico did not take full advantage of fifth-placed Real Betis losing on Tuesday.

Atletico recorded 1.4 expected goals (xG) against Granada but were wasteful in front of goal, hitting the target just once from their 22 attempts.

For Simeone, the explanation was simple.

Asked what was missing for Atletico, Simeone told reporters: "[We needed to] generate more chances to score, especially being more forceful in dangerous situations. Granada defended very well.

"We looked at the different options we had [in attack]. We had the [Manchester] City game, we played after three days against Espanyol and we ended up with one [player] less [Joao Felix], and in another three days we played against Granada.

"It's not an excuse, [but] we lacked brilliance due to the team's fatigue. There are five games left, and game by game we have to fight. Whoever is most engaged will go into the Champions League."

Atletico were frustrated late in the first half when a penalty was not given against Victor Ruiz for a challenge on Antoine Griezmann.

But Simeone opted against putting too much emphasis on that incident, again pointing to his team's recent workload instead.

"I didn't see the Griezmann incident. Apparently there is contact," he continued. "There's the VAR to make decisions, I am just here to improve my team.

"The boys came from making a great effort and they gave everything they had because they came here very tired.

"We lacked a goal, we lacked brilliance – that is achieved when you are fresh."

The Atletico coach gave his 19-year-old son Giuliano his LaLiga debut right at the end, though in typical Simeone fashion, he did not look at the situation with any particular sentimentality.

"I thought of him as being a footballer," the former Argentina international said. "We had one more option [on the bench] as a striker.

"He showed in a few minutes that he has a lot of intensity, aggressiveness."

Atletico Madrid's bid to qualify for the Champions League suffered a setback as they were held to a goalless draw by LaLiga strugglers Granada on Wednesday.

The toothless champions moved into second place, but had to settle for a point at the Wanda Metropolitano against a side fighting to avoid relegation.

Atleti lacked a cutting edge in their first game since Joao Felix was ruled out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury, Matheus Cunha coming closest to breaking the deadlock when he struck the post late on.

Diego Simeone's misfiring side only had one shot on target as Granada dug in to frustrate them in a drab match that will not live long in the memory.

Yannick Carrasco was Atleti's match-winner in the dramatic defeat of Espanyol on Sunday and the Belgium winger had an early strike deflected wide after earning a place in the starting line-up.

Rodrigo de Paul had a chance to open the scoring when he was set up by Koke, but Luis Maximiano made a comfortable save diving to his left

Atleti wanted a penalty for Víctor Diaz's challenge on Antoine Griezmann, but both referee Jesus Gil Manzano and the VAR saw nothing untoward late in the first half.

Simeone responded to a disjointed first-half display by replacing Javier Serrano and Reinildo Mandava with Luis Suarez and Sime Vrsaljko at the break.

Griezmann came close with a powerful left-foot drive as Atleti applied the pressure, but Njegos Petrovic flashed a sweet strike just over the crossbar at the other end against the run of play.

Stefan Savic sliced a shot wide before Petrovic tried his luck once again, bending a long-range strike narrowly wide with Jan Oblak no more than a spectator.

The closing stages saw Savic head off target from a corner and Cunha turn sharply before rattling the upright from close range as Atleti were unable to fashion a winner.

Diego Simeone rued Atletico Madrid's injury problems ahead of Wednesday's clash with Granada after Joao Felix was ruled out for the remainder of the season.

Atletico saw their hopes of a top-four finish in LaLiga dealt a blow on Monday when the Portuguese forward announced his season is over after picking up a hamstring injury. 

The 22-year-old has scored eight league goals in 24 games, but just 13 starts for Simeone's team in LaLiga this season, his best return since making a big-money move from Benfica in 2019.

But after going off injured at the halfway point of Atletico's 2-1 win over Espanyol last time out, he will be unable to add to his 10 goals and five assists in all competitions this term, joining the likes of Thomas Lemar on a growing injury list.

Simeone said those injuries have come at a "bad time" as his team look to ensure Champions League qualification for next season, noting Joao Felix was in a "great moment" before sustaining the blow.

"We have lost them [Joao Felix and Lemar], and [Hector] Herrera and Jose [Gimenez] are waiting to join the group, we hope they do so after this match," Simeone told his pre-match press conference. 

"We lost Joao, who was in a great moment, with games, playing in continuity, [it was going] very well for his growth and play, [and] Lemar always gives us something different, in that defence to attack transition.

"It's a shame. They are injuries that come to us at a bad time, but I have other boys waiting to play and everyone is up to the task of continuing to compete as we have been lately."

Last month, the Portugal international became the third-youngest striker to reach 50 appearances in LaLiga for Atletico (aged 20 years and 120 days), after Sergio Aguero (19 years and 162 days) and Fernando Torres (19 years and 310 days).

The forward pledged to "come back stronger" when announcing the news of his injury on social media on Monday evening. 

"Unfortunately, the news is not what I expected, and it is with deep sadness that I find myself unable to help my team in what remains to be played this season," the 22-year-old said in an Instagram post.

"Now I can only support Atleti from the outside, and work hard on my recovery to come back stronger."

Atletico are fourth in LaLiga, leading fifth-placed Real Betis by three points ahead of their home clash against Granada, with Simeone's men winning each of their last four home league games, their longest winning streak at the Wanda Metropolitano this term. 

Diego Simeone hailed 10-man Atletico Madrid for displaying their "personality, pride and hard work" in a dramatic 2-1 victory over Espanyol on Sunday.

Substitutes Matheus Cunha and Yannick Carrasco combined in the 52nd minute, with the latter opening the scoring with Atletico's first shot on target at the Wanda Metropolitano.

However, Geoffrey Kondogbia was dismissed for two bookable offences, with Raul de Tomas restoring parity immediately after by squeezing a free-kick under Jan Oblak.

Atletico's grasp on Champions League qualification was seemingly slipping until Carrasco converted a penalty in the 10th minute of stoppage time after De Tomas was adjudged by the VAR to have handled.

Victory moved the reigning LaLiga champions level on points, at least temporarily, with Sevilla and Barcelona and three clear of fifth-placed Real Betis, who were held at Real Sociedad on Friday.

Simeone's side have collected more points than any other LaLiga side this season with goals in the 90th minute or later (10 points), and the Atletico boss was delighted with his team's spirited response.

"With the sending-off comes fatigue, the goal, one less player, 20 minutes to go and the team kept looking, taking risks, with great effort from everyone," he told reporters after the game. 

"You come from the hit four days ago [after being eliminated by Manchester City in the Champions League] after playing a good game, it's not easy and these guys played with personality, pride and hard work.

"We then benefited from that penalty and Carrasco showed his courage to finish it."

Atletico have failed to score in the first half in their last four games in all competitions, having had just one shot on target in those halves, and Simeone acknowledged changes were needed at half-time.

He introduced Antoine Griezmann, Cunha and match-winner Carrasco, changes that offered Atletico the impact Simeone sought after.

"Carrasco scored a very important goal for our league position, we came from a very big effort and a bad game in Mallorca [1-0 defeat]. Today, the first half was a struggle but the second was more dynamic."

Carrasco expressed his delight to Movistar after the game but conceded Atletico have no chance of catching leaders Real Madrid, who could go 15 points clear at the LaLiga summit with victory at Sevilla.

"Very happy, it was a difficult game," he said. "We were winning, then 10 against 11 we have continued to push and very happy with the victory that brings us closer to the goal.

"[The title race] is over, we still have games left in LaLiga and we have to continue. This match is important for us for morale and to continue working."

Yannick Carrasco scored twice, including a stoppage-time penalty, as Atletico Madrid boosted their hopes of Champions League qualification with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Espanyol on Sunday.

Diego Simeone's side succumbed 1-0 to Real Mallorca last weekend and were eliminated in Europe by Manchester City on Wednesday, before struggling again at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Atletico had to wait until the 52nd minute for substitute Carrasco to strike with their first shot on target, before Raul de Tomas levelled with a free-kick following Geoffrey Kondogbia's dismissal.

However, a late handball decision against De Tomas offered Atletico a penalty, which Carrasco converted in the 10th added minute to send Simeone's side level on points, at least briefly, with Sevilla and Barcelona, and three clear of fifth-placed Real Betis.

Atletico had defeated Espanyol in seven of their last nine home league games, but it was Vicente Moreno's visitors who started the brighter.

Leandro Cabrera's header from Darder's corner forced a sharp Jan Oblak stop just seven minutes in, while Joao Felix skewed over on the counter-attack at the other end.

Simeone responded by sending on Antoine Griezmann, Matheus Cunha and Carrasco at half-time and Atletico's fortunes soon changed.

Oblak reacted quickly to deny Darder and that save proved vital a minute later when Cunha and Carrasco combined on a clinical break.

Cunha raced towards the Espanyol goal before laying an inch-perfect pass for Carrasco to cut in and squeeze a right-footed strike under Diego Lopez to open the scoring.

Oblak then thwarted a low De Tomas volley but, after Kondogbia was shown a second yellow for handball, the Espanyol striker's resulting free-kick squirmed under the Atletico goalkeeper.

Carrasco snatched victory after De Tomas was adjudged to have handled an Atleti corner, allowing the home forward to fire into the bottom-left corner from 12 yards.

Inter are firming as a likely destination for Paulo Dybala, as the end to his time at Juventus draws near.

The Argentina international has provided 96 goals and 51 assists in 265 league appearances for Juventus, but will not stay in an evident rebuild under Max Allegri.

While Dybala is set to leave after seven seasons in Turin, and after a near-move to Tottenham, it appears he might stay in Italy's Serie A after all.

 

TOP STORY – INTER CLOSE IN ON DYBALA

Inter are closing in on Paulo Dybala, whose contract at Juventus will expire at the end of the season, according to reports from La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The 28-year-old attacker has drifted out to the periphery for the Turin giants, ever since Cristiano Ronaldo's transfer, to the point where they are not willing to renew his contract.

Per the report however, Inter face potential stumbling blocks in fitting Dybala within their wage structure, with talks between the club and his representatives focused on bridging any gaps in expectations.

While Inter would seek to bring Dybala in next season, they are not in a capacity to offer a €6milliion salary, currently earned by Lautaro Martinez and Marcelo Brozovic.

Though Inter are unsure of Martinez's future at the San Siro, Alexis Sanchez falling out of favour under Simone Inzaghi could facilitate Dybala's addition.

 

ROUND-UP

– Juventus are keen to sign Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo, and are prepared to add Moise Kean as part of a package deal, according to Nicolo Schira.

Manchester United have reached a verbal agreement in principle for Erik ten Hag to leave Ajax and become their next manager, The Athletic is reporting.

Liverpool are prepared to make a £25million (€30m) offer for Torino's Gleison Bremer, per Tuttomercato.

Barcelona must be prepared to pay Juventus €100m in order to sign 22-year-old centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, Fichajes is reporting.

– Atletico Madrid are interested in signing Lautaro Martinez, with Inter setting a transfer price range of €70-80m, per Nicolo Schira.

Jan Oblak admitted Atletico Madrid must improve on their performance in defeat to Real Mallorca when they host Manchester City in the Champions League. 

Atletico face City in the second leg of their quarter-final at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday, trailing 1-0 from the first game in Manchester. 

They surprisingly lost by the same scoreline to relegation-threatened Mallorca at the Visit Mallorca Estadi on Saturday, with Vedat Muriqi's penalty settling a contest low on quality. 

LaLiga's reigning champions saw their six-game top-flight winning streak end abruptly but remain fourth – three points behind Sevilla in second. 

Oblak was unhappy with the decision to award the penalty after Reinildo was judged to have fouled Pablo Maffeo but conceded the Rojiblancos did not play well enough to win. 

"Things didn't work out today," the Slovenian goalkeeper said after the game. "Mallorca played a good defensive game. It was a difficult game. 

"In the end, with a dry pitch, with sun, with everything, it's complicated. I'm not looking for excuses. We have to do more and better. Today was not enough for the three points. 

 

"We didn't have [the Champions League game] in mind, but I'm sure the first leg has taken its toll. We've been a bit tired, heavy... We haven't played the game we had to play. Next it's City and we have to do much better to win on Wednesday. 

"Reinildo has also told me that it wasn't [a penalty]. I saw it from behind and it didn't seem like it to me. But if the VAR people don't want to warn him, nothing can be done. I've told the referee that it's not a penalty. Football is a contact sport and it can happen that after clearing the ball you touch someone. 

"The intensity wasn't at the level that it had to be for the whole team. In the end, you lose a game that you didn't have to lose. You can't let the other team play with more enthusiasm. You have to go in wanting to win and take the three points." 

Head coach Diego Simeone also dismissed the notion that his team had one eye on City. 

"We started the game well, but it was costing us," he told reporters. "We were elaborate, generated danger, but defensively they were very good. The penalty made us look to force a draw, but it wasn't to be. 

"It's easy to blame a lack of concentration, but we couldn't break their orderly and correct defense." 

Atletico Madrid missed the chance to go joint-second in LaLiga after they were beaten 1-0 by relegation-threatened Real Mallorca. 

Vedat Muriqi's penalty settled a scrappy contest at the Visit Mallorca Estadi, where Diego Simeone's side saw their six-match winning streak come to an end. 

The reigning champions remain fourth in the table – three points behind second-place Sevilla – but have now won just twice in their last 11 away league meetings with Mallorca. 

Meanwhile, Javier Aguirre's side climbed out the relegation zone after ending a run of seven straight defeats. 

Seeking a seventh straight league win and aiming to bounce back from their midweek Champions League defeat by Manchester City, Atletico dominated large periods of a stop-start first half. 

Marcos Llorente and Antoine Griezmann were narrowly off target but despite enjoying over two-thirds of the possession, the visitors were unable to turn their superiority into the opening goal of the contest. 

Mallorca went close to breaking the deadlock within a minute of the restart. Brian Olivan, who last found the net on the opening day of this season, drew a smart save out of Jan Oblak with his 20-yard volley. 

The hosts eventually opened the scoring midway through the second half, Muriqi confidently firing home from the penalty spot after Reinildo felled Pablo Maffeo in the box. 

While Atletico continued to enjoy superiority in possession, they were unable to generate a threat to truly trouble Mallorca, who held on to complete only a fourth league double over Los Rojiblancos despite the loss of Iddrisu Baba to a head injury late on. 

Kevin De Bruyne believes Manchester City were rewarded for their calmness and patience during the Champions League quarter-final first leg 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid.

De Bruyne marked his 50th appearance for the Citizens in the competition by striking the only goal at the Etihad Stadium.

The Belgium international latched onto Phil Foden's delicious throughball 20 minutes from time, before neatly slotting past Jan Oblak.

City had endured a frustrating first leg as they struggled to break down their opponents' typically stubborn defence.

But their persistence eventually paid off with Pep Guardiola’s side taking a slender lead to Madrid for the return fixture next week.

"It was a very hard game," De Bruyne told BT Sport. "They play so defensively tight and solid; that's their way of playing. I think we played good under the circumstances. 

"They played almost five at the back and five in midfield, so it's very hard to find the spaces.

"You need to be calm, patient, and try to find the spaces. You're going to lose balls because it's so compact, but we had a couple of chances in the second half and managed to get one.

"I expect similar over there [in the second leg]. If the game is tight, they will have to attack a little more."

Diego Simeone's men arrived in Manchester for the second time in a month - having defeated United at Old Trafford in the previous round - protecting a six-match winning streak, and will fancy their chances of turning things around next Wednesday.

Nevertheless, Guardiola insists that the Premier League leaders do not intend to sit back and rest on their laurels at Wanda Metropolitano.

Asked if he was happy with his side's performance, the head coach told BT Sport: "A lot. 

"We played an incredible top side who are difficult to face, but it is a good result. We had chances to score a second and third.

"It is not easy to face a team with a lot of experience in this tournament. 

"We will go there to score and try and win again."

Kevin De Bruyne was the hero as Manchester City overcame Atletico Madrid 1-0 in their Champions League quarter-final first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

The Belgium international struck the only goal 20 minutes from time to hand Pep Guardiola's side a narrow advantage heading into the second leg at the Wanda Metropolitano next week.

Atletico had frustrated the Premier League leaders for large periods of the contest on Tuesday with a typically stubborn defensive display.

However, their resistance was finally broken when De Bruyne latched onto Phil Foden's precise throughball, before sliding past Jan Oblak. 

Guardiola had overseen victories in each of City's previous three Champions League matches against Spanish sides.

But despite boasting well over 70 per cent of possession and forcing four corners, the hosts were unable to break down their stubborn opponents before the interval.

City failed to register a single shot on target from six attempts in the first half, with Atletico also making important blocks to deny Joao Cancelo and De Bruyne.

Ilkay Gundogan almost unlocked the Atleti defence, but the skipper was just unable to get Riyad Mahrez's inviting cross under control.

City continued to carry the greater threat after the restart; Oblak getting down well to keep out De Bruyne's free-kick, while Aymeric Laporte headed over from a Mahrez corner.

Guardiola introduced Jack Grealish, Gabriel Jesus and Foden in a bid to find an elusive opening goal.

And the latter made an impact within two minutes of stepping onto the field; producing a perfectly timed pass for De Bruyne, who finished clinically with his right foot from inside the penalty area.

The midfielder then had an effort blocked by former City defender Stefan Savic, but his strike was enough to give City the edge.

Tuesday's Champions League fixtures feature two of the tournament favourites, but there are no easy games when the competition reaches the quarter-finals.

Manchester City are the bookmakers' favourites to lift the trophy but will need to safely navigate their way past 2020-21 LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid, starting with Tuesday's first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

Liverpool are right behind City in the odds, but the Reds face a tough trip to Portugal where they will play Benfica after the home side triumphed over a strong Ajax team in the previous round.

While the English teams are well fancied, the Opta facts show Atleti coach Diego Simeone should not be daunted by City boss Pep Guardiola, and Benfica's Estadio da Luz has been anything but a happy hunting ground for Liverpool.

Manchester City v Atletico Madrid

This will be the first ever meeting between City and Atleti in European competition, but the fourth between the respective bosses of the two clubs. None of the previous three games ended in a draw, as Guardiola won two and Simeone triumphed in the other.

While Simeone is down on the head-to-head record, his Atleti side eliminated Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the 2015-16 Champions League (2-2 on aggregate), progressing on away goals. 

Showing his side can win ugly, across the two legs, Atletico averaged just 27 per cent possession and scored their two goals from 18 shots, while Bayern netted the same number of goals from 53 attempts.

City should have some reliable avenues to goal, as only Vinicius Junior (44) has been directly involved in more shots than Riyad Mahrez (42 – 29 shots, 13 chances created) in the Champions League this season. 

 

One of Mahrez's chief suppliers is likely to be Kevin De Bruyne, who will make his 50th Champions League appearance for City if he plays in the first leg.

Since his first season at the club in 2015-16, he has more assists than any other player for an English club (17) in the competition. 

However, Atleti may be uniquely positioned to repel some of City's attacking firepower, as no goalkeeper has kept more Champions League clean sheets since 2014-15 than Jan Oblak, with 30 clean sheets in 67 appearances.

Meanwhile, City have only failed to score in one of their 28 home games under Guardiola.

Atleti are also the first side to face both Manchester United and Manchester City in the knockout stages of a European competition in a season since Juventus in the 1976-77 UEFA Cup – the Italian side would go on to progress from both of those ties before winning the whole thing.

 

Liverpool v Benfica 

Liverpool are aiming to win a fifth consecutive away game in Europe's premier competition for only the second time in their history, having last done so between 1983 and 1984 under Joe Fagan.

While Liverpool are a very different beast in recent years under Jurgen Klopp, they have lost on each of their last three away trips to face Benfica in European competition, with the most recent of those coming in the Europa League in 2009-10 under Rafa Benítez.

On the other hand, Benfica are winless in their past four homes matches against English sides in the Champions League since beating Liverpool in 2006, with one draw and three losses.

The home side will need a big performance from Darwin Nunez, who is Benfica’s top scorer in the Champions League this season, having netted four times so far. He is just one goal shy of equalling Nuno Gomes as the player with the most goals for Benfica in a single Champions League campaign (five goals in 1998-99).

Meanwhile, Liverpool boast one of the main hopes for the Ballon D'or in Mohamed Salah, who has scored eight goals in the Champions League this season and could become the first player to score 10+ goals in multiple seasons for the Reds in the competition. 

 

The only other player from an English club to reach double-figure goals in a European Cup/Champions League campaign on more than one occasion was Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2001-02 and 2002-03 for Manchester United.

Benfica will need to be efficient going forward, as their 40 per cent possession in the Champions League this season is the lowest of any remaining team, while only Real Madrid (23) have recorded more direct attacks than the Portuguese side.

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