Liverpool kick off their Champions League last 16 tie against Atlético Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, the stadium were Liverpool won the competition eight months ago.
Liverpool continued their winning run in the Premier League at the weekend, a tight 1-0 victory over Norwich was enough to secure a place in the Champions League at a ridiculously early date.
Atlético Madrid have had the luxury of an extra 24 hours rest as they played on Friday night, though morale may be impacted by being held to a 2-2 draw with Valencia as their underwhelming season continued.
Atléti’s journey to the knockout stages
Atlético Madrid progressed to the knockout stages in second place in Group D. They finished second behind a near-perfect Juventus side with ten points, being the only team to take points of the Italian side after drawing 2-2 with them at home. They came back from two down to score twice in the last 20 minutes.
In the return leg a goal from Dybala proved to be the difference between the two sides. The Argentine scored a stupendous free kick from a tight angle to secure top spot for the Old Lady.
They only managed to beat Bayer Leverkusen once, winning at home by a tight margin. A late goal from Álvaro Morata saw Madrid gain a lead over their German rivals despite being second best for the majority of the game. The Germans couldn’t make the dominance pay, and only registered one shot on target from 12 efforts overall.
Like what you see? Get it for free!
Sign up to receive all our content straight into your inbox – completely free of charge!
In Germany they were on the end of a 2-1 defeat. Two goals early in the second half gave Leverkusen a healthy lead. Nadiem Amiri was then sent off before Morata scored a consolation deep into stoppage time.
It was no surprise to see them pick up maximum points against group whipping boys Lokomotiv Moscow. They won both games 2-0 at a relative canter. They were dominant in both games, having more than 60% of the ball while registering 20 shots on goal.
Atlético Madrid have quite a few injury concerns for the match on Tuesday, especially in the forward positions which may harm their chances of getting a positive home result. Their reputation under Diego Simeone has been built on defensive resolve and decisive finishing (albeit not free-scoring). This has somewhat deserted them this year.
Though the defence remains outstanding, Atlético have been relatively poor otherwise. A defence which has only conceded 17 goals in 24 games (the third best record in the top five European leagues behind only Liverpool (15) and Real Madrid (16)) has not been able to compensate for a faltering front line.
Their goalkeeper Jan Oblak is the only keeper to rival Alisson as the best in the world, with both keepers holding an impressive record of keeping more clean sheets than goals conceded.
First choice right back Kieran Trippier is out injured and a poor performance from Renan Lodi should mean that Santiago Arias moves to the left with Sime Vrsaljko playing on the right.
A midfield four of Saúl Niguez, Koke, Thomas and Llorente are all technically gifted but may struggle against Liverpool’s energetic midfield.
Morata returned from injury against Valencia, but a lack of fitness should see Vitolo start next to Correa.
Fabinho and Mané should be the only changes Jürgen Klopp makes to the side that won at the weekend. Atlético Madrid are notorious for being quite physical, especially at home. Fabinho will add much needed guile to midfield while Mané’s powerful running will be a valuable asset.
Our defence has been exceptional since the start of December, conceding only once in the past 11 games. Another clean sheet at the Wanda Metropolitano would go a long way in seeing Liverpool progress to the quarter finals.
Robbo and Trent will have limited time on the ball due to Atlético Madrid’s formation, so much of Liverpool’s play will be in the middle of the park. Henderson and Wijnaldum are the trusty two who have the patience required to pick out the right pass when the opportunity arises.
A flat midfield four often frustrates Liverpool, particularly if the wider players hover close to the full backs to hamper both Robbo and Trent’s rhythm. Our creativity from the middle has been a lot more effective this season, but Atlético Madrid’s defending is superior to the majority of teams the Reds have faced this season.
Morata will play some part in the game and has had a good season before his injury. A known threat in the air, our defenders in wide areas must try to stop crosses into the box. Madrid will also try and disrupt play as much as possible, raising the possibility of Liverpool having a lot of set plays. Trent is the most potent threat in this respect, and may well be a useful weapon if Liverpool face as strong a defensive outfit as predicted.
A lack of attacking options means that the home side may find it difficult to find the net, and despite an impressive defence, it seems unlikely Atlético will keep a clean sheet against this Liverpool juggernaut.
Predicted final score: Atlético Madrid 0-2 Liverpool