Who: Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool
When: Tuesday, February 18th @ 03:00pm ET
Line: Atletico Madrid +245 | Draw +230 | Liverpool +118
Holders Liverpool start their knockout stage title defense with a trip to face Atletico Madrid in Spain.
This has been a disappointing campaign for Los Rojiblancos. However, this is a match-up that Diego Simeone should relish. Expect Atleti to come out as physical as Simeone will be animated. If you enjoy ugly, low-scoring soccer, this is the match-up for you.
Here’s the Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool Champions League Round of 16 leg 1 preview.
Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool Preview
Despite the promise shown in preseason outbursts, Atleti simply do not score goals. They’ve netted 25 times in 24 domestic league games. That’s good for…math math math…1 goal a game. Not good!
To make matters worse, 11 of those 25 goals will likely not be suiting up for this match-up. Among the injured are Diego Costa, João Félix, Alvaro Morata (those aforementioned 11 goals) as well as Hector Herrera, and Kieran Trippier.
However, does missing his goal scorers impact Simeone all that much? First, despite the injuries, Atleti are still fourth in La Liga. And the pair are under-performing their xG (Morata 44%, Félix 58%) by staggering numbers. If anything, perhaps the injuries give Simeone the excuse to get really creative.
Expect Atleti to roll with a 4-4-2 with Vitolo and Angel Correa up top. Loading the midfield and dropping Vitolo and Correa deeper than usual will help stifle the booming flank runs by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. They’ll hope that midfielders like Koke and in-demand Saúl Ñíguez can weave a through-ball on a counter and somehow slip one past Liverpool, get a lead, and sit on it in truly annoying ways. Jan Oblak will be key there as well–he’ll need to be at his absolute best to keep the Reds from tallying an away goal.
On the Liverpool side, Jurgen Klopp will run out his trusted 4-3-3 line-up. Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane will get the starts up top. Expect Gini Wijnaldum, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in the middle. TAA, Robbo will pair with Virgil van Dijk and likely Joe Gomez on the backline.
The midfielders will run ragged this match trying to dispossess Atleti high up the pitch and launch a quick striking counter. The key here is how much Salah can pick on (most likely) Renan Lodi. Salah has been super active and pesky of late and his end product appears to be picking up. If Liverpool earn a non-set piece goal, it’ll come from Salah.
This. will. be. ugly. Liverpool get either a moment of brilliance from Salah or a set piece goal (Atleti are particularly vulnerable there) for a 1-0 win.