One year ago, Atlético Madrid blew a 2-0 first leg lead en route to Champions League elimination against Juventus. This time around, Atlético will try to prove that lessons were learned from that devastating defeat.
“We did not play (well) or compete in Turin,” Diego Simeone said Tuesday. “The intention is to compete, and doing that will help us to continue in this competition.”
Simeone’s men are getting set to play English champions-elect Liverpool on Wednesday night. Los Colchoneros are nursing a 1-0 lead at halftime in the tie against the reigning European champions, and thus have the unenviable task of completing what would be a massive upset at Anfield.
“We are ready,” Thomas Partey said. “It’s a dream for me to play against (Liverpool) in their stadium. It hope it stays with me for the rest of my career.”
“I have not (contested a match at Anfield) as a player or as a coach,” Simeone said. “It has had historical games, turned around ties — it’s a wonderful stadium, without a doubt.”
Speaking of Anfield — in a statement, Atlético confirmed that fans will be allowed into the stadium to watch the match amid fears of a closure. Concerns about the global COVID-19 outbreak led to LaLiga’s announcement that games would be played behind closed doors for at least the next two weeks. In addition, Valencia played out a 4-3 second leg loss to Serie A’s Atalanta at an empty Mestalla on Tuesday.
“We know what’s happening,” Thomas said. “As a player, it’s nice to play in front of the fans, but if a match is played behind closed doors, we don’t care. We have to focus on our work.”
Liverpool have been shaky since that first leg defeat, struggling to victories over West Ham United and Bournemouth while losing to Watford in the league and Chelsea in the FA Cup. Atlético, meanwhile, have drawn the past two games against Espanyol and Sevilla — results which have seen the team continue out of the Champions League places.
Simeone has called up his full squad, though Thomas Lemar is not expected to play a part in this match. José Giménez rolled an ankle in training Monday, while Álvaro Morata may not start as he trained alone to recover from a calf injury.
Possible XI Oblak; Trippier, Felipe, Savić, Lodi; Thomas, Saúl, Koke, Correa; Félix, Costa.
Prediction 2-1 Liverpool. The best of both worlds. Los Rojiblancos will lose on the road because they have been terrible away from home all season. But this finally-healthy side will take advantage of a defense which has conceded in five consecutive games and will be without elite goalkeeper Alisson Becker. I have a feeling João Félix will grab the key goal, and Jan Oblak will make at least three dazzling saves to help Atlético move on to the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time since 2017.
“This is the work we have been doing for some time,” Thomas said. “We know how important João is. He has a lot of quality. We have to be together and work as a team.”
My record on the season 20-17
Date March 11, 2020
Location Anfield, Liverpool, England
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 4:00 p.m. EST, 1:00 p.m. PST
Available TV/streaming Movistar Liga de Campeones (Spain), BT Sport Live (United Kingdom), TNT (United States), TNT (Brazil), Eleven Sports 1 (Portugal), ESPN Play Sur (Argentina), DAZN (Japan), QQ Sports Live (China)