What a difference a few years make. If this game took place even two years ago, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Atletico stifle a naïve Liverpool and squeeze the life out of them. Such has been Liverpool’s progression and Atletico’s regression, however, that it appears there is little hope for Diego Simeone’s men.
Atletico are 12 points off the pace in La Liga and have already been dumped out of the Copa Del Ray, all the while enjoying a bang average group stage in the Champions League. They have won just one of their last seven games in all competitions – a slender home win against Granada – and there is little hope of them improving that record against the most in-form team in Europe at the moment.
Liverpool have won 25 of 26 league games this season and seem to find a way to win no matter how well they are playing. The Reds have an imperious record at the back in recent weeks and the only goal they have conceded in their last 10 league games came in their win over Wolves in January.
Atletico, meanwhile, look decidedly blunt up front this season following the loss of Antoine Griezmann and have only managed a meagre 25 goals in 24 league games. They will struggle massively to break down Liverpool’s watertight defence.
While Liverpool have undoubtedly been the best team in the league this season, they have rarely blown teams away – their slender win over basement boys Norwich on Saturday was indicative of that.
Similarly, Liverpool inched over the line against Tottenham, Manchester United and Wolves in January. Whatever it is about Liverpool, they just don’t seem to let loose all that often and Man City have managed to score more goals than them in the league despite dropping points in eight more games.
Coming up against Atletico will take a certain level of ingenuity to break them down and it might be a while before Atletico’s resistance is broken.
Whatever the reason, Sadio Mane absolutely loves away ties in the round of 16 of the Champions League. The Senegalese forward has netted five times in his last two away games at this stage of the competition, including a brace in Munich last year.
Mane has been a key part of Liverpool’s fearsome attacking trio and he has been a key reason for their splendid form. His goals against Aston Villa and Norwich have dug Liverpool out of holes against rigid defences and he could be key to their chances of finding the net on Tuesday. He’s good value to do so.