Liverpool travels to the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on Tuesday night (8 pm BST/7 pm GMT) to take on reigning Spanish champions Atletico, as the UEFA Champions League resumes. Liverpool top group B with 6 points, after wins over AC Milan and FC Porto whilst Diego Simeone’s men, lie second in the table with 4 points, after holding Porto to a draw and nicking a late win over Milan at the San Siro.
These two sides obviously met two seasons ago in the Round of 16, with the Spanish side coming out on top, winning the two legs 1-0 and 2-3. The defeat at Anfield particularly hurt the Liverpool faithful as a grave error by backup goalkeeper Adrian was pounced upon by Marcos Llorente to swing the tie back in favour of the Spaniards. It was an advantage they would then ram home as they scored two more goals in quick succession to seal qualification.
Liverpool had done the hard work in taking the tie to extra time and had edged in front through Roberto Firmino. A myriad of missed chances and that costly goalkeeping error was punished by a superbly drilled Atleti side. It is going to be another tense game tomorrow night, with Atleti having their home fans behind them. They come into the game off the back of back-to-back wins against Milan and Barca.
They currently lie 4th in La Liga on 17 points, 3 points off table-toppers Real Sociedad, having played a game less. This is due to their game over the weekend being sensibly postponed as a number of their squad were flying back from South America late on Friday. Simeone’s men are unbeaten in 12 games at home and have suffered just the one defeat in all competitions this season, going down 1-0 away to Alaves.
Liverpool are in fine form themselves and come into it unbeaten in their last 20 games in all competitions. That’s their longest unbeaten streak in 25 years. The Merseysiders have also scored at least 3 goals in every away game they’ve played this season. They will have fond memories of the Wanda Metropolitano, seeing as it was the venue for their sixth UCL title win after beating Spurs 2-0 in the showpiece final.
Atleti has received positive news on a number of key players ahead of tomorrow. Jose Gimenez and Marcos Llorente both took part in a full training session ahead of the game. Summer signing Matheus Cunha is also said to be available after recovering from a recent knock. For Liverpool; midfielders Thiago, Elliott, and Jones remain out, but Brazilian pair Alisson and Fabinho, have been in Spain for a few days and are available for selection.
Marcos Llorente scored a brace on that night at Anfield and his career has taken off since. No longer a defensive midfielder, the 26-year-old has morphed into a more savvy player in the attacking third. With 13 goals and 12 assists in all competitions last season, he has become something of a go-to man for Diego Simeone. Capable of playing as a marauding right-back, as a right midfielder, an attacking midfielder, or even a support striker, he broke into the Spanish national team owing to his versatility.
The Egyptian has been in scintillating form this season, netting 10 goals and laying on 4 assists for his teammates in just 10 appearances. He’s won both Liverpool Player of the month awards this season, as well as the PFA Fans Player of the month for September. There’s a current discourse amongst fans and pundits of the Egyptian being the best player in the world right now. Such high praise comes with high expectations, and all eyes will be on him tomorrow night.
Liverpool will come up against a former flame in the 34-year-old Uruguayan. Suarez has scored 5 goals in 10 appearances this season, with one assist, famously scoring against another former club (Barcelona) last time out. He did score against Liverpool when the Reds lost 3-0 at the Camp Nou three seasons ago. Expect him to be his annoying and deadly self again.
With it being the first Champions League game at the Wanda with a full crowd in two years (since that win over Klopp’s men), expect a hostile atmosphere and for Diego Simeone to play the role of an orchestrator. Atleti will be their usual conservative selves, with their low block making them hard to break down. They have a lot of quality attacking options so when they do break on the counter, they will be dangerous. It should be an interesting tactical battle.