Careful approach in Madrid

This promises to be a fascinating clash at the Wanda Metropolitano as Diego Simeone’s Atletico meet Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Atletico has allowed just six goals on home soil in La Liga so far this season and will be determined to keep things tight ahead of a return leg at Anfield.

Simeone will know that his side cannot afford to let this match open up and while he would love a first-leg advantage, he will not be phased by going to England with a goalless draw under their belts. Liverpool will ask plenty of questions with their star attacking trio, but they too are strong defensively and that should lead to a low-scoring affair.

First-leg matches in the Champions League knockout phase are so often cagey affairs, and this one promises to follow suit. The fact that Atletico’s attack is decimated by injuries to Joao Felix and Diego Costa means that keeping things tight at the back is their only real route to success here and they have the defensively solidity to halt the Liverpool juggernaut and keep this very low scoring.

Atletico Madrid’s form will be a big concern to Diego Simeone as they have won just one of their last seven games in all competitions, a far from ideal preparation for facing the reigning European champions. They were held to a draw at Valencia’s at the weekend in a match they led twice before being pegged back and Simeone will be demanding much more from his players as they enter this tie with a positive result crucial to take to Anfield.

Simeone will be without the injured Kieran Trippier whilst there are also doubts over forwards Diego Costa and Joao Felix, but he will give them as much time as possible to make themselves available for this home leg. Liverpool was not at their best but was able to beat Norwich in the Premier League at the weekend to make it 17 consecutive league wins – one behind the Premier League record set by Man City in the 2017-18 season.

The Reds’ defensive resolve has been particularly impressive this season and they have kept 10 clean sheets in their last 11 league matches and it is likely to be the familiar quartet of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Andy Robertson tasked with keeping the La Liga side at bay.

Sadio Mane was not fit enough to start at Norwich but is likely to come into the side following a match-winning performance from the bench and that should ensure Klopp’s first-choice front three line up together while Fabinho is fancied to come into the midfield trio after his benching over the weekend. Six of their last eight league matches had fewer than three goals, just like four of Atletico’s last five league matches at home. This season they have played out a 0-0 draw and lost 1-0 at home to Barcelona. We expect a similarly tight affair in the Spanish capital Tuesday evening.

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