Diego Simeone and Jürgen Klopp will match wits again on Tuesday, a mere 19 months after Atlético Madrid last met and eliminated Liverpool from the Champions League.
This time, Atlético and Liverpool will play — in all possibility, if not probability — to determine Group B supremacy. The Reds are unbeaten in the Premier League this season and have already defeated both AC Milan and Porto in this competition.
“Liverpool work very hard, they press high, counterattack, take advantage of the spaces,” Simeone said Monday. “(Virgil) Van Dijk’s return allows them to get back to their previous defensive level. I expect nothing more than a very intense Liverpool that we’ll try to hurt.”
Klopp has been a high-profile Simeone critic, and though the Liverpool boss claimed he respects how Atlético consistently get results, he iterated his dislike for the Spanish champions’ playing style on Monday. Simeone had nothing to say — literally, replying “nothing,” in English — when asked what he thought about Klopp’s comments.
“(Klopp) gives press conferences his own way and trains his team his own way,” Koke said Monday. “We have our style, we’re not going to change it. We respect all opinions.”
Atlético are expected to have all players available, aside from the suspended Stefan Savić. There is speculation João Félix and ex-Liverpool star Luis Suárez will start in attack and that José Giménez will be benched after suffering a muscle pull with Uruguay. Giménez and Marcos Llorente (his own muscular injury) are training fully, but Simeone gave no hints on Monday about his starting 11.
“We’ll have another training session tomorrow to see if the players who came back injured feel better,” Simeone said when asked about his team’s rigorous upcoming calendar. “But as we’ve been doing all these years, we only care about the Liverpool game.”
Liverpool sent Fabinho and Alisson to Madrid last week to quarantine prior to Tuesday night’s kickoff, and the group leaders are expected to field a full-strength 11. Each member of the Reds’ vaunted forward trio — Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané, and Mohamed Salah — scored at the weekend in a 5-0 win over Watford.
“Every game is important for us,” Koke said. “Playing against a team like Liverpool motivates you more. The last game all our supporters could attend was against Liverpool. Then came the pandemic, but it pushed us forward. I hope we can repeat (that night) and get first place in the group.”
Date Oct. 19, 2021
Location Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid
Kickoff time 9:00 p.m. CET, 8:00 p.m. BST, 3:00 p.m. EST, 12:00 p.m. PST
SB Nation opposition blog The Liverpool Offside