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We are still in the group stage of the competition and Liverpool will therefore deliver a measured performance, while Atletico are usually content to keep things tight in big games like this.
Diego Simeone will celebrate his 10th anniversary as Atletico Madrid manager in December. It has been a magnificent decade of achievement. The Argentine has established Atletico as one of the biggest clubs in Europe, winning two La Liga titles, two Europa Leagues and reaching two Champions League finals. It is an astonishing array of accomplishments when you consider where Atletico were before he took over. Simeone’s position as one of the world’s top coaches is in no doubt.
Atletico were the underdogs in both of those aforementioned Champions League finals. In 2014 they were just moments away from victory, only for Sergio Ramos to score an equalizer for Real Madrid in second-half stoppage time. Atletico could not bounce back from that blow and went on to lose 4-1 in extra time. Two years later, the Colchoneros were beaten by their cross-city rivals on penalties following a 1-1 draw in Milan.
Atletico reached the semi-finals of the competition in 2016/17, where it was again Real Madrid who ended their dreams of European glory. Since then their Champions League record is somewhat disappointing: a group stage exit, two round-of-16 departures and a solitary quarter-final appearance. Some have criticized what they see as Simeone’s excessive conservatism in knockout ties, even though he now has an excellent squad at their disposal.
Atletico should never be expected to win the Champions League; they have made huge strides in recent years but cannot match Europe’s biggest clubs for resources. Yet after last season’s La Liga triumph, more will be expected of Simeone in continental competition this term.
Liverpool have made a strong start to their Champions League campaign, and sit at the top of the Group B table after winning their first two games. Atletico are two points further back and the Reds therefore have the chance to open up a healthy lead at the summit of the standings as we approach the midway point of the group phase.
Liverpool’s performances to date suggest they could be real contenders to win the Champions League this term. On matchday one they beat AC Milan 3-2 at Anfield, but the scoreline does not do justice to their dominance. Jurgen Klopp’s side somehow found themselves 2-1 down at the break despite delivering a superb showing in the opening half. They could easily have been out of sight after 20 minutes, such was their supremacy.
Liverpool followed that win up with a more convincing one on matchday two when Porto were demolished 5-1 at their own stadium. The Reds have a fantastic recent record against the Portuguese side, and they once again showed the extent of their attacking quality with Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah all getting on the scoresheet. No team in the competition can better Liverpool’s tally of eight goals after two games.
Klopp’s team can beat any opponent in Europe on their day, and their fast-paced style of soccer makes them well suited to a knockout competition like this. The only concern for Liverpool, perhaps, is a lack of squad depth compared to some of the other contenders. Injuries in the forward line or at full-back could prove costly, but if Liverpool can keep their first-choice XI fit and firing they have as good a chance as anyone to win this trophy.
Liverpool will see this as their toughest assignment of the group phase, and the fact they have maximum points so far means they do not need to go all-out for the win at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano. Simeone too will be reasonably satisfied with his side’s points tally so far following a 2-1 victory over AC Milan and a goalless draw with Porto. The Argentine, you feel, would settle for a tie on Tuesday – and that result would be acceptable to Klopp too.
Atletico are capable of playing more attacking soccer these days, and a pool of forwards containing Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa and Joao Felix ensures plenty of firepower in the final third. Yet this is a game in which Simeone will preach the value of pragmatism, and we will probably see Atletico sit deep in a compact, well-organized defensive shape with the primary objective of denying Liverpool space in behind.
Klopp will not want to make the mistake of piling bodies forward in the first half, and his team will probably be happy to keep possession and bide their time. This is the type of game that may could come to be described as a chess match, with little in the way of goalmouth action early on. For that reason, back a goalless first half in Madrid.
|Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool Information|
|Teams||Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool|
|Location||Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain|
|Time||Tuesday, 19 October 2021, 15.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||Paramount+|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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