Atletico Madrid entertain Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano for the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 tie on Tuesday night.
Atleti have been in a period of transition under Diego Simeone this term and they are currently fourth in the La Liga standings with a 13-point deficit to table-toppers Real Madrid.
On the other hand, Jurgen Klopp’s side have been in exemplary form in the Premier League and they are presently a staggering 25 points ahead of second-placed Manchester City, having played an extra game more.
The Reds have already sealed their berth in next season’s Champions League group stage. That is, however, not the case for Atleti, who are just ahead of fifth-placed Sevilla on goal difference.
Players to watch out for:
Alvaro Morata – Atletico Madrid: One of the prime concerns for Atleti this season has been with the club’s forwards, who they have struggled to find the net on a regular basis. Over the course of the league season, they have netted just 25 times from 24 games and the same was the case in the Champions League group stage with just eight goals from six matches. Morata has been their most effective striker with nine goals in both competitions and Atleti will be banking on the Spaniard making runs behind the Reds defence, which is far from an easy task. Their opponents have gone more than six hours without conceding in any competition.
Sadio Mane – Liverpool: The Senegal international made the difference over the weekend by scoring the only goal of the game against Norwich City. The trio of Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have already netted a combined 42 goals this season but the former could be more effective against an Atleti side, who are known to play on the defensive when they concede possession against the elite sides. Mane likes to take on his opponents from the left flank before cutting inside and he could benefit from his tussle against Sime Vrsaljko, who has played just four competitive games since his recovery from a long-term knee injury. The Croatian is expected to start with regular right-back Kieran Tripper ruled out after his groin surgery.
Atleti will be wary of conceding an away goal which could prove costly in their bid to make the next round of the elite competition. As such, they may play on the defensive from the off and that may benefit the visitors. Obviously, the Spanish outfit barely concede goals on their home patch but judging by the Reds’ fortunes this season, they could be on the receiving end of a late defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Atletico Madrid 0-1 Liverpool