The masterplan to sink Simeone: Liverpool must stop Kieran Trippier’s supply line, expose a midfield imbalance and target Renan Lodi… here’s how Jurgen Klopp CAN seal comeback against Atletico Madrid
- Liverpool are 1-0 down in tie ahead of Champions League last-16 second leg
- Atletico Madrid will be solid, compact and difficult to break down at Anfield
- This is not the Atletico of old and there are weaknesses in Diego Simeone’s side
Liverpool had 96 minutes to break Atletico Madrid down at the Metropolitano three weeks ago and they couldn’t do it.
So what chance at Anfield when Diego Simeone’s team will be even more entrenched?
The travelling fans will be in their element but there are reasons for Jurgen Klopp to think that he can devise a masterplan to see his side through. Here, Sportsmail looks at the challenge facing him.
Jurgen Klopp will feel Liverpool can overturn the deficit against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday
Atletico boss Diego Simeone will be his usual combative self on the touchline, having played a huge part in whipping up the home crowd during his side’s 1-0 first-leg win in Madrid
Living on reputation?
The first thing to point out is that this is not the old ‘they shall not pass’ Atletico.
Diego Godin, Felipe Luis and Juanfran – three quarters of the old rearguard – are long gone. Atletico don’t have the best defence in Europe anymore, they don’t even have the best defence in Spain because Real Madrid have currently let in two goals fewer.
Their record away from home is also not great. They have only won three games away from home all season in La Liga, drawing seven on the road and losing three.
They lost two of their three Champions League away days in the group stage, and were knocked out of the Spanish Cup when they traveled to third-tier Cultural Leonesa.
That said, they still have the brilliant Jan Oblak, who has let in 28 goals in his 36 games so far this season, so still less than one a game. Summer signing Felipe Monteiro has been very impressive too and they showed how they can dig in in the first leg.
Jan Oblak is still a formidable goalkeeper and Liverpool have a tough task on their hands
Part of the reason why Atletico are no longer quite so impenetrable has nothing to do with the defence.
The key to the old solidity that won them the league and got them to two Champions League finals came from midfield. Simeone would often string four central midfielders across the middle, play narrow, and suffocate teams.
He might try to repeat the trick at Anfield if he adds Marcos Llorente to Saul, Koke and Thomas Partey. But it’s a quartet that doesn’t really have a natural sitter. In a recent interview with Sportsmail, Saul lamented the absence of former captain Gabi Fernandez.
Thomas Partey can play at the intensity required but is not a natural defensive midfielder
‘He did the dirty work for us and he was very intelligent. It’s not an easy job: covering this team-mate, then that one,’ he said.
Gabi sat in front of the back four plugging the gaps and allowing others to bomb on. Thomas and Saul now share the job but both are better suited to marauding forward.
Thomas missed the match against Juventus this time last year when Atletico crashed out despite a first-leg lead. He is not Gabi in a defensive sense but he does have the intensity that will be needed on Wednesday.
Billed as the weakest link in the first leg, Lodi delivered his best performance of the season against Liverpool.
Before the game Atletico fans had feared for him up against Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah. Simeone had contemplated not playing him.
It still remains the case that he is a 21-year-old in his first season in Europe and as exciting as he has been at times going forward he is still learning defensively.
Lodi did miss the weekend game as a precaution. It may well be that he was simply being rested for the biggest test of his career. Simeone must have more faith in him after that first-leg display.
And his alternatives are not great with centre-back Mario Hermoso not convincing when he moves across to the left side. Saul can also play there but is too big a miss in midfield.
Renan Lodi was brilliant against Liverpool and will need to be even better in the second leg
Atletico know that, such is Liverpool’s attacking prowess, they will probably need to score at Anfield to progress.
They will try to play on the break using the speed of Alvaro Morata and Angel Correa and the guile of Joao Felix.
The 20-year-old Portuguese may not be as quick as the other two but as he showed on his league debut this season when he ran from his own half into the Getafe box hurdling tackles until he was brought down in the area for a penalty, he is a real threat.
Alvaro Morata will spearhead the attack and look to hit Liverpool on the counter
It’s likely that those three will start up front with Correa and Felix swapping positions – one on the right and one alongside Morata.
Diego Costa still looks short of the level of fitness that might make him a starter unless Simeone picks him to run himself out for an hour and try to bully and antagonize the Liverpool defence.
Morata complained of a bruised buttock after the Sevilla game at the weekend so that will influence Simeone’s final decision.
Diego Costa could be used to bully Liverpool’s defence but he would only last for an hour
The Trippier supply line
That ability to deliver the perfect cross without needing to beat the last man has helped make Kieran Trippier a success in his first season at Atletico.
Morata, if fit, will pose a threat from the crosses that the England right-back provides.
Andy Robertson, with help from the likes of Jordan Henderson, will need to cut off the supply line.
Kieran Trippier has great crossing ability and Liverpool need to be wary of the threat
A noisy Anfield is unlikely to intimidate Atletico. Most of them are looking forward to playing in a stadium that is on almost every Spanish player’s and fan’s wish list to visit at least once.
‘I’ve never played there but [Fernando] Torres has told me all about it and I’m looking forward to it,’ said Saul. Simeone, and the expected 2,800 travelling supporters, will also be in their element.’
The atmosphere will be electric and the travelling fans will love every minute
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article