Nearly 20 months ago, before the world changed forever, Atlético Madrid traveled to Anfield and beat Liverpool 3-2 in the second leg of a Champions League last 16 tie. Now, in the 2021/22 group stage, the Spanish champions might once more be fighting for their lives in this competition when they return to Merseyside on Wednesday night.
“The three games that we have ahead of us are decisive for each of the four teams (in Group B),” Diego Simeone said Tuesday. “Football is very fluid, and the team that is in first place today can be third and the one that is third can finish first.”
Atlético enter this match following a 3-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday, but Simeone’s men continue to struggle with injuries and suspensions. Antoine Griezmann and Stefan Savić are finishing up UEFA sanctions and will not be available, while all three of Geoffrey Kondogbia, Thomas Lemar, and Marcos Llorente remain injured.
“We have a fantastic squad to match Liverpool, so of course we go there to win,” Kieran Trippier told the media Tuesday. “We show the character, the desire and the fight that we showed last year against Liverpool, it’ll be no different tomorrow and we go there with the winning mentality to get three points.”
The worst-case scenario for Atlético on Wednesday include a loss and another Porto win at Milan — a pair of results that would see Atlético slip to third in the group, three points behind Porto with two games left. Simeone stated the knockout stage meeting two seasons ago is long over, and qualification for this season’s knockout phase is all Atleti are focusing on.
“In football, there is no revenge,” Simeone said. “That game is in the past, we were able to advance, and that doesn’t factor in (to Wednesday’s game). Tomorrow is a new match and will have other implications, that one will remain in Atlético fans’ memories.”
João Félix — who laid on an assist for Llorente that night — is expected to return to the starting lineup after coming off the bench to score on Sunday. The Portuguese will start next to former Liverpool hero Luis Suárez in attack, and Felipe Monteiro will step in for Savić in defense.
“There’s no problems in defense,” Trippier said. “Yes, we’ve conceded a couple goals, but quite a few have been penalties. Since I’ve arrived here, we’ve been defensively strong. We’ve got a very good defense and (the goals conceded lately) are nothing to worry about.
“We’ve got to be calm as players and we are, we’re relaxed. I know how strong we are defensively, and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
Date Nov. 3, 2021
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
SB Nation opposition site The Liverpool Offside
Editor’s note: I did an interview with Sporticos’ Craig Hanson about virtually all things Atlético — such as club support in the United States, academy prospects, Griezmann’s return, and much more! You can listen to that podcast here.