Champions League preview: Liverpool v Atletico Madrid (Wednesday, 8pm)
Two current powerhouses of European football come head-to-head once again, as Jürgen Klopp’s unbeaten Liverpool side welcome an Atletico Madrid squad who will be looking to avenge their recent 3-2 defeat to the Premier League side in the Spanish capital.
What can we expect from the match?
This one is going to be intriguing.
Liverpool are looking to keep their 100% record in UEFA Champions League Group B going against the current Spanish champions and one of the most dogged and well-rounded sides in Europe.
Klopp knows that a victory at Anfield will see his team safely through to the knockout stages with two games to spare, but Diego Simeone relishes games like these and Atletico’s long-serving coach will expect his side to show the resilience they exhibited in the reverse fixture.
Two weeks ago at the Wanda Metropolitano, Simeone watched his defence concede twice inside 15 minutes to Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita, before Atletico impressively drew level before half-time through two Antoine Griezmann efforts.
Griezmann’s sending-off for a nasty challenge on Roberto Firmino turned the tie back in Liverpool’s favour – with Salah’s penalty proving decisive in terms of the result – but Simeone will have been impressed with how his side fought back from 2-0 down and has plenty of options in attack to replace his suspended French talisman.
One of those options to start up front will, of course, be Luis Suarez.
The Uruguayan’s last start at Anfield came in a very famous 4-0 defeat for his Barcelona side in 2019, and the 34-year-old is sure to be highly motivated to put on a display in a ground and a city where he made his name a decade ago.
As we said, it’s going to be intriguing.
Players to watch?
Liverpool fans will be expecting a reaction after seeing their side throw a comfortable 2-0 lead away when Graham Potter’s Brighton were the visitors on Saturday, and if there’s one player who has embodied fighting spirit during his time at Anfield, it’s Roberto Firmino.
The Brazilian attacker may get fewer headlines than his strike partners in Salah and Sadio Mané, and seems to be stuck in a constant battle with Diogo Jota for a starting berth, but there’s no doubt the Reds would not have achieved the monumental success of recent seasons without Firmino to thread it all together.
This season has seen the 30-year-old return to something like the form that saw him become a Kop favourite, although he was far from at his best against the Seagulls at Anfield.
The Liverpool No.9 will be keen to make up for a performance that was notable for misplaced passes and chances gone begging, and will relish the chance to put on a show against a side like Atletico.
On the Spanish side, the onus may well fall on Joao Felix to provide the spark that will be missing with the suspended Griezmann.
The 21-year-old Portuguese has not enjoyed the best of times in Madrid and has even been recently linked with a loan move to Liverpool, but Felix did bag his first La Liga goal of the season against Real Betis on Sunday and will hope to impress against his potential future employers at Anfield.
Liverpool’s difficulties in the centre of midfield continued against Brighton when Naby Keita was withdrawn in the first half with a hamstring problem.
The Guinean is unlikely to feature on Wednesday night, James Milner is definitely out, while neither Thiago nor Fabinho have been seen in or around the Reds’ side in recent weeks.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as a result, can expect to start along with Jordan Henderson and Curtis Jones, with Joel Matip also pressing for a recall in defence after Ibrahima Konaté’s less than perfect performance against Brighton at the weekend.
For Atletico, Felix can expect to start up front with Suarez, given his goalscoring exploits against Betis and the absence of both Griezmann and the injured Thomas Lemar.
Liverpool expected XI: Alisson – Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Matip, Robertson – Henderson, Jones, Oxlade-Chamberlain – Salah, Firmino, Mané.
Atletico expected XI: Oblak – Savic, Gimenez, Hermoso – Trippier, De Paul, Koke, Carrasco – Correa, Felix, Suarez.
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