Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid Preview: Holders face almighty battle for place in quarterfinals
(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Liverpool must overturn a first-leg deficit against a supremely well-organised Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night to keep their hopes of retaining the Champions League alive.

The Reds went down 1-0 in the Wanda Metropolitano three weeks ago, with Saul Niguez's fourth-minute strike the difference.

They failed to register a shot on target against Diego Simeone's resolute hosts.

Having subsequently suffered defeats against Watford and Chelsea, Liverpool arrested their slide last Saturday with a hard-fought home win against Bournemouth.

They are now just six points away from Premier League glory, but exiting this competition in the first knockout round would nonetheless be hugely disappointing.

Atletico currently find themselves outside the automatic qualification spots in La Liga, trailing fourth-placed Real Sociedad by a point.

Since the first leg, they have beaten Villarreal and drawn against Espanyol and, most recently, Sevilla.

Alvaro Morata and Joao Felix overturned an initial deficit against Los Nervionenses on Saturday before Luuk de Jong made it two apiece.

It was their twelfth stalemate in 27 league matches.

Team news

Liverpool are set to be lifted by the return of skipper Jordan Henderson, who has watched on from the sidelines since he injured his hamstring in the Madrid clash.

Henderson returned to training on Sunday, but optimism has been somewhat dampened by the extended absence of no. 1 goalkeeper Alisson.

The Brazilian will miss the next two games at least with a hip problem, meaning Adrian will start in goal.

Andrew Robertson is back in contention after missing the visit of Bournemouth due to a knock.

Atletico, meanwhile, can call upon Felix, Hector Herrera and former Spurs defender Kieran Trippier, all of whom have returned to action following their first-leg absence.

Morata will undergo checks on a muscle issue.

Predicted line-ups

Liverpool (4-3-3): Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Atletico Madrid (4-4-2): Oblak; Trippier, Savic, Felipe, Lodi; Saul, Llorente, Thomas, Koke; Felix, Costa. 

Key battles

Atletico Madrid vs Anfield

"They celebrated as if they had won the tie. But let’s see. We have some weeks then they come to Anfield. We know our fans will be there, so it is up to them to come as well," a defiant Andrew Robertson said after the narrow defeat in Spain, as quoted by Goal

Will this be another evening where that unmistakable air of an Anfield European night overawes the opponent? 

Liverpool cannot bank on that, of course, but as increasing numbers of games are held behind closed doors, the importance of a raucous home support might well be demonstrated.

Simeone will back his players to remain resilient, and perhaps model his gameplan on that of Bayern Munich, who successfully held the Reds to a goalless draw when they visited at the same stage last year.

Jurgen Klopp vs Diego Simeone

There is an additional element to the managerial battle here, with Klopp hinting at 'something different' to disrupt Atletico's gameplan.

Simeone successfully set his side up to neutralise the Reds' threat from wide areas in the first leg, so perhaps on this occasion Klopp will look to create through the middle. Starting Naby Keita could be a fruitful gamble for those purposes.

The German knows his team will likely face a regimented defensive block, but they have to be wary of over-committing. If Atletico can grab a goal on the counter, Liverpool will have to score three. 

View from the dugout

Klopp appeared to alert the officials to the possibility of gamesmanship from Atletico, who were able to bring the first leg to a standstill on a number of occasions. 

"We spoke about that already but we will probably mention it again," he told the press, as quoted by The Guardian.

"We expect a really ‘experienced’ performance from Atlético, let me say that. In all different departments experienced, but we have to deal with that."

But Simeone says the tie will be decided by adaptability and desire.

“They are a team that’s going to make a name for themselves, lots of options, lots of ways of hurting you in attack," he said, as quoted by liverpoolfc.com.

“They position themselves all over the field very well and they’ll be trying really, really hard to compete. We’ll have to try really hard to compete against them."

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