Atletico Madrid will travel to Anfield for the Round of 16 second leg in what will prove to be one of the biggest tests of the season for Jurgen Klopp, whose side will be determined to overcome a one goal deficit.
Can the Reds cap another memorable European night at Anfield?
We think so, and here’s why:
1. This is Anfield
We’ve seen this story pan out one too many times before. The opposition side grossly underestimates the magic of Anfield, dismissing all the stories they heard and read about the famous stadium as merely myths – fabled tales that do not hold any weight.
Of course, right? How intimidating can a stadium be? Their president, Enrique Cerezo, clearly thinks so.
Then the long-awaited evening arrives, and the visiting team will have their first glimpse of what is to expect during the 90 minutes. Their team bus will make its way to Anfield, rolling along the famous Anfield Road already engulfed in a red mist, blinded by the flares set off by Liverpool fans – who are all ready to give everything they can to gain even a tiny edge.
They will be treated to hundreds of banners and flags waving just visible above the smoke, and welcoming them will be an army of Reds fans, chanting and baying for blood.
The incident carried out by a minority of idiots that happened against Manchester City two seasons ago – in which their bus was pelted with missiles – was clearly wrong and have crossed the line, should never be condoned.
But that’s almost the sort of atmosphere European nights bring. And when the fans are in check and at their brilliant best, we reckon it will be intimidating drive, even for someone like Diego Simeone.
The players then gather in the dressing room to prepare for the game, and we bet they can already hear the Kop singing at the top of their lungs while putting on their kits. The decibel then scales increasingly higher as they make their way out of the tunnel, past the famous three words.
Remember the reception the Barcelona players got last season as they went out for their warm ups?
Tonight will be the same, and by this point, Atletico Madrid might just be wishing the game was suspended due to the coronavirus situation.
And when the first whistle finally blows, it will be to a huge roar of approval by everyone in the stadium, buoyed by the prospect of being involved in another historical European night.
The ground will shake and that’s when Diego Simeone’s side will finally realise that Wanda Metropolitano might be capable of serving up an atmosphere as they did before, but this, this is different – this is Anfield.
2. The skipper returns
It is only this season that Jordan Henderson has really came to the fore, despite being one of the most consistent players under Klopp for several years.
The England midfield has faced constant criticism throughout his career, with even the most ardent of Liverpool fans been found guilty of not being entirely convinced by him at some point in time.
His performances are now finally recognised by everyone in the game, and speculations of being the favourite to win the Player of the Year accolade sums up what a fantastic player he actually is.
Henderson, like his countryman James Milner, is not the fanciest of players, but last week heroics from the vice-captain against Bournemouth perhaps underline the importance of having such players in the squad. Their leadership and presence on the pitch often go under the radar, with the likes of more attacking players such as Mo Salah and Sadio Mane inevitably stealing the limelight.
It has been clearly evident now – based on the string of poor performances without the captain in the side – that Liverpool struggles without the presence of Henderson on the pitch, with his mobility, work-rate and perhaps most importantly his leadership missing.
His timely return to the side could prove to be decisive tonight, and even if he does not feature from the start, his commanding presence back in the dressing room alone will surely lift the team.
3. Liverpool are the comeback kings of Europe
You can almost smell it in the air; and you can see it in the players’ gazes when the camera pans across their faces as the Champions League anthem bellows in the background.
Liverpool are the comeback kings of Europe.
Remember the Europa League semi-final against Villareal where the team ripped into the Yellow Submarines from the first whistle? Or the Dejan Lovren header to break the hearts of Borussia Dortmund in 2016? Or maybe one of the most exciting Champions League quarter-final tie against Manchester City in 2018 where a blistering start saw them race to a 3-0 lead in half an hour?
You get the drift, and we have not even mentioned the famous night against Barcelona in one of the greatest comebacks in football history.
And oh, Istanbul in 2005.
So yes, to overcome a one goal deficit against a Diego Simeone side might be a really tall order – almost impossible in fact – but ask any Liverpool fans and they will be reeling in the excitement of adding Atletico Madrid to the long list of casualties.
4. Atletico Madrid’s woeful away record
Los Rojiblancos are a force to reckon with at Wanda Metropolitan, as the Reds found out three weeks ago. It was a tough away game for Liverpool, who huffed and puffed but struggled to create anything worthy of note against a resolute Atletico backline.
But here is the good news: Simeone’s side are finding it really hard to replicate those performances on the road.
Atletico have won just three away games in the La Liga this season, registering a meagre 11 goals in 13 matches. Their woeful form away from home is surprising to many, considering the way Simeone is capable of setting up his team to play.
But this will be a massive boost for Klopp, especially with Atletico’s inability to score away from home, as his side must ensure that they do not concede early – or any at all – as the away goal rule will mean that the Reds will require three goals to advance should that happen.
And when you start to recall the massive celebrations after the final whistle in the first leg, you perhaps start to understand why they did that – they probably knew they had to get a positive result, considering their inabilities away from home.
It is all up to the mighty Reds now.
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