PREVIEW | Liverpool v Atlético de Madrid (Champions League)

A must-win game lies ahead for Liverpool, as they must overturn a first-leg deficit in order to beat Atlético de Madrid and progress to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League.

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Liverpool welcome Atlético de Madrid to Anfield as they look to overcome a one goal deficit to progress to the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League. If they do not, then dreams of three European finals in a row will be dashed.

Liverpool returned to winning ways at the weekend — a 2-1 win over AFC Bournemouth saw them close to within just six points of the title thanks to Manchester United’s victory over their local rivals City.

Atlético fell out of the top four as they managed to draw 2-2 with third placed Sevilla. They fielded a near-full strength side but failed to get the win they needed, which would have seen them jump above their rivals into third place.

Recent form

Liverpool ended their winless run as they came from behind to beat Bournemouth at Anfield on Saturday. The Reds knew that a win would see them need just nine more points from their remaining games to clinch the title but found themselves behind after less than 10 minutes.


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Callum Wilson looked to have fouled Joe Gomez in the build up to the opener but, after consultation with VAR, the striker’s goal stood after tapping in from close range. Nathan Aké came close to doubling the Cherries’ lead from a corner, but his effort was helped onto the crossbar by Adrián, deputising for the injured Alisson.

Mo Salah equalised for the Reds 15 minutes later. Sadio Mané won the ball high up the pitch and, although his square pass for Salah was a bit short, the Egyptian controlled and beat his man before slotting into the bottom corner.

Ten minutes later, normal service resumed as Liverpool again won the ball high up the pitch. Virgil van Dijk played Mané through, who placed his shot beyond Aaron Ramsdale to give Liverpool a half-time lead.

Ryan Fraser had the chance to equalise for the away side, but his lobbed effort was cleared off the line by James Milner which made sure Liverpool stayed ahead. Roberto Firmino had the chance to break his Anfield duck but fluffed his chance to secure the points for Liverpool. In the end it did not matter as Liverpool secured their 27th league win of the season.

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Atlético’s draw at the weekend meant they have only won two of their last eight league games. This has seen them drop out of the Champions League places as they continue to struggle in front of goal.

Luuk de Jong gave Seville the lead in the 19th minute as an excellent touch set the Dutchman one-on-one with Jan Oblak. He made no mistake, dispatching it beyond the ‘keeper.

Álvaro Morata dispatched a penalty awarded for handball after it was checked by VAR, before João Félix’s deflected effort gave Atlético the lead five minutes later. Sevilla equalised from a penalty of their own. Again, VAR was used to award it after Kieran Trippier fouled Lucas Ocampos in the box. The winger then dispatched it to even the tie at the break.

The home side had the better of the chances to win the game in the second half — Yannick Ferreira Carrasco spurned two chances to win all three points for Atlético but failed to find the back of the net as the points were shared.

Team news

Jordan Henderson should be available for selection after returning to full training this week. Alisson Becker has been ruled out due to a muscle injury and won’t play a part.

Much of the team picks itself, with Andy Robertson likely to be the only change in the defence and forward line from Saturday. The Scotsman will replace James Milner at left-back.

Jürgen Klopp has a decision to make in midfield. Jordan Henderson has been our best midfielder this year, but has not had any game time since his injury. Playing him would be a big risk but it may be one that the manager has to take to ensure Liverpool’s progression to the next round.

Joe Gomez, Andy Robertson and Sadio Mané are all one yellow card away from being suspended for the first leg of the quarter-final, should the Reds progress.

Diego Simeone almost has a full-strength side to choose from as a host of players have returned from injury since the first leg. João Félix and Kieran Trippier among others have made their return from injury over the past two weeks and will likely be in the squad to face Liverpool.

Jan Oblak will keep his place in goal — Liverpool didn’t test the Slovenian at the Wanda Metropolitano, they even failed to register a shot on target. He will be making his 50th appearance in the Champions League.

Kieren Trippier will likely start at right-back, with any two of José Giménez Stefan Savić or Felipe in the heart of defence. Renan Lodi will complete the defensive line at left-back.

A four-man midfield will form a barrier in-front of an already rigid defence. Saúl Ñiguez and Thomas Partey impressed in the first leg and both will look to continue their form in the middle of the park. Koke Resurrección will keep thing neat and tidy from the left while Ángel Correa — also a booking away from a suspension — will add a bit of guile and trickery from the right.

Diego Costa will partner João Félix up front. Anfield will be rocking and Costa is the type of player to feed off a hostile atmosphere from the home crowd.

Prediction

Liverpool have had a special European nights at Anfield during Jürgen Klopp’s time at the club. The likes of Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City and Barcelona have all felt the force of the atmosphere.

Atlético Madrid may not be the strongest team in terms of talent, but they have a very strong mentality. Some players won’t be phased by the atmosphere that will be created. Some players will, Koke admitted that he and others won’t feel comfortable at Anfield.

Liverpool will need to work hard on Wednesday after they struggled against Atlético in the first leg. Our players usually step up on a big stage, as do our fans. For us to progress we need a similar performance to the one against Barcelona, a performance that is absolutely perfect. This time we will have Firmino and Salah to make it easier.

Predicted final score: Liverpool 2-0 Atlético de Madrid

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