Liverpool need another magical European night at Anfield if they are to reach the last eight of the Champions League. They are trailing Atletico Madrid 1-0 following a superb defensive display from the La Liga club in February. It was a reminder of the qualities possessed by Diego Simeone’s side, despite recent struggles domestically. They will be similarly hard to break down on Wednesday and they will be determined to get a huge victory over the current holders of the competition.
The Reds are in the midst of a poor run by their own very high standards. They have lost three of their last five matches across all competitions, conceding nine goals during that time. The big worry is that they haven’t kept a clean sheet in those five matches. A failure to shut Atletico out on Wednesday will leave Liverpool needing at least three goals. That will be a tough ask if the Spanish side are as organised as they were in the first leg. Anfield has become famous for producing big nights in Europe. They will need another one this week if they are to progress.
Atletico have had a lot of success in this competition during the Diego Simeone era, reaching the final on two occasions. Although there is an ongoing period of transition, they remain a huge threat in the Champions League. Liverpool learned that during the first leg. During the game, they conceded only 0.51 expected goals (xG) against an excellent Reds’ attack. It was a throwback to the peak years of Atleti under Simeone, with the team defending with aggression and creating chances on the counter. The La Liga side created two big chances at the Wanda Metropolitano, taking one of them to earn a lead in the tie. Their manager will be demanding a similar performance at Anfield.
Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 16 Champions League matches at Anfield. They were victorious in 11 of those matches.
Since the start of the 2013/14 season, no goalkeeper has kept more clean sheets in the Champions League than Jan Oblak with 26.
Sadio Mane will be crucial for the home side on Wednesday, as they attempt to overturn a deficit yet again at Anfield. At the weekend, he showed his quality with a goal and assist, which suggests that he is finding his form ahead of this match. His record of two goals and one assist in this season’s Champions League is modest, but it will be hoped that he can have a big impact in the knockout stages. Previously, he has shown that he can be effective, with his best return coming during the 207/18 season, in which he contributed 10 goals. In each of the last two finals, he has made key contributions. In 2018, he scored Liverpool’s only goal of the match. Meanwhile, last season, he was integral in the winning of the penalty. Mohamed Salah gets a lot of the plaudits, but it is often Mané that steps up in the big moments. He will be the key player for the home side on Wednesday.
It was the midfielder that made the match winning contribution during the first leg, with his smart finish separating the two sides. The Spaniard will want to be seen more than a functional midfielder in a Simeone team, but he will need to play a selfless role on Wednesday if his team are to progress. In addition to his goal, he made four ball recoveries, won three aerial duels and completed four dribbles, as he showed the qualities that he possesses in the middle of the park. Simeone knows that he can rely on Saúl, as he has been used in a number of different positions this season. Everyone will be needed to deliver on Wednesday, but Saúl is the player that can help Atleti control proceedings.
It looks likely that Alisson Becker will be missing for the home side, which means Adrian will deputise in goal. Jordan Henderson is a doubt, but it is hoped that he will be passed fit. Andrew Robertson should be back in the starting eleven following his absence at the weekend.
Atleti don’t have many injury worries ahead of the trip to Anfield. Thomas Lemar is the only potential absentee.
It is very difficult to predict how this one will go. Liverpool need to raise their performance levels if they are to progress. They have been unusually poor at the back in recent weeks and they need to be back to their best to prevent any away goal. The atmosphere will help, but Atletico won’t be intimidated by it. The Reds should have enough, but it will go down to the wire.
Liverpool 3-1 Atletico Madrid