Probably the most delicately poised Champions League tie of this round is Liverpool v Atletico Madrid.
The second leg begins on Wednesday with Diego Simeone’s side 1-0 up from the first game, having put in a classic Simeone performance in Madrid to claim the slight edge over the holders.
Liverpool’s task is relatively simple, and it’s unlikely their gameplan will be any different to how they usually approach home games. But what about Atletico? How will they set up? Does Simeone have anything special planned?
“Four holding midfielders, probably,” said Alvaro Romeo on this week’s European edition of the Totally Football Show. “That will be the answer I guess, to keep the scoreline as it is. I believe we’ll see a similar pattern to the Wanda – Liverpool playing in Atletico’s half, and it’s inevitable they will have big chances.
“Atletico played the perfect game [in the first-leg], but that hasn’t been the pattern of the season. In fact, since that game they have conceded in every league game – four goals in three games. They’ve been scoring, because they have a little more confidence and are more pumped after what happened against Liverpool.”
Atletico are in better shape in terms of personnel than the first leg.
“Kieran Trippier, Joao Felix and some other key players weren’t available. I don’t know if Thomas Lemar is going to be available, but anyway…it won’t be a big loss.
“Felix being back, they have the possibility of counter-attacking better. He played a good half against Sevilla. He didn’t touch the ball many times, but every time he had it at his feet he did something special.”
Alvaro also brought us some interesting news about Diego Costa, who will also return but not, by the sounds of things, at full strength.
“He had quite complicated surgery. He had surgery on a herniated disc, and he has a metal plate in his spine. Basically he’s not confident with headers. Last week there were some reports that Atletico were doing some training where heading was 90% of it, and Costa withdrew from it, because he was scared to head the ball.
“If he’s going to play against Liverpool – and I believe he will play some minutes – against Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk, you want a fully confident striker. Maybe the Diego Costa we knew from the past won’t be as ferocious, because again he seems to be a little bit weakened after the surgery.”
Most of the panel predicted that Liverpool will go through, but Julien Laurens pointed out that there are areas of Jurgen Klopp’s side that Atletico might be able to target.
“If you’re Simeone and you watched the Bournemouth game – even the Chelsea game – you see there’s a lot of weaknesses you can try to reproduce. Like pressing Fabinho for example, who’s clearly not back to his best.
“Maybe Simeone will think they should play a bit higher on the pitch, not the low block that everybody expects, and maybe put them under pressure a little bit, instead of waiting for them to create something and keeping the ball all the time.”
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