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Champions League: Can Atleti Frustrate The Reds Again?

Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid

The Champions League returns this week, and we have a cracking game at Anfield to look forward to as Liverpool try to overturn a first leg deficit against Atletico Madrid.

The La Liga side comes into the tie with a one goal lead thanks to a Diego Simeone master-class at the Wanda Metropolitano two weeks ago. That was one of the big Champions League 2020 results so far, but it will be eclipsed if Los Rojiblancos manage to finish the job at Anfield.

The Reds will throw everything they have at their visitors but Atleti will be hard to break down and it could well go to the wire.

 

Talking Points

Atleti’s near perfect first leg

Head coach Simeone was delighted with his team’s performance on their home turf, and the outcome was as good as he could have hoped, with a one goal lead and no away goal for their visitors.

Atleti hit Jurgen Klopp’s Reds early and Saul Niguez stabbed home a fourth minute chance; and after a brief VAR deliberation the home crowd erupted. Top scorer Alvaro Morata had a good chance to double the lead but Alisson made a strong save from a tight angle. And while Liverpool had the bulk of possession they failed to register a single shot on target.

Simeone would have loved that!

Jordan Henderson returns in full training after suffering hamstring injury in the first leg of Liverpool's Champions League clash against Atletico Madrid
Jordan Henderson receiving medical attention after suffering injury in their match vs Atletico Madrid

Henderson could be back for Liverpool

Skipper Jordan Henderson limped off in the first leg and his team has since stumbled without him. The Reds went out of the FA Cup last week losing 2-0 to Frank Lampard’s Chelsea and prior to that they had a humbling defeat to Watford in the league.

It’s only a matter of time, probably two weeks, until Liverpool claim a first league title in three decades so they can focus with real intent on the Champions League. Henderson is back in training and hopeful of returning, and that would be a major boost for the hosts. They will be without first-choice keeper Alisson Becker and Adrian is set to deputise, while wing-back Andy Robertson could return from a minor injury having missed Liverpool’s win over Bournemouth at the weekend.

 

Atleti’s threat on the break

Liverpool striker Mo Salah has four goals in the competition and will be desperate to add to that tally and I expect him to start alongside Firmino and Sadio Mane in a front three. They may need to bide their time to break down a solid Atleti defence, comprising the returning Renan Lodi, Felipe, Jose Gimenez and Kieran Trippier. Goalkeeper Jan Oblak is an imposing figure and excellent last line of defence.

But the Reds must also be aware of Atleti’s threat on the break, with ex-Spurs man Trippier raiding down the right and capable of a dangerous delivery. Alvaro Morata is likely to start up front alongside Joao Felix, recently returned from injury, while Thomas Partey is back from suspension and could feature alongside Niguez in the middle of the park.

 

Simeone’s team still has work to do to qualify for the 2020/21 Champions League so will be keen to progress in this year’s competition. After sharing four goals in the first half of their weekend clash with Sevilla, Los Rojiblancos laid siege to the Sevilla goal in the second half but couldn’t score the vital winner.

 

History

The Reds, of course, are reigning European champions; but after the defeat in Madrid, Manchester City and FC Bayern as favourites to succeed this year. And the Sky Blues will be particularly focussed having lost the Premier League, as well as contesting a two-year European ban.

Both teams have won three of the last six but, while Atleti are unbeaten with three draws, Liverpool lost their other three, including that 3-0 defeat to Premier League strugglers Watford.

But they have been unbeatable at Anfield recently, not losing at home in any competition for the last 42 games, dating back to 2018.

 

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