Can Atletico Madrid really deliver a special Diego Simeone to derail Liverpool's incredible season?
The Spanish club have been as underwhelming as the opponents of Tuesday's Champions League have been extraordinary, but & # 39; El Cholo & # 39; would like to ruin the party.
Tactically, this is set on a fascinating first leg at the Wanda Metropolitano. Liverpool's strengths broadly match Atletico's full-back fragility with Kieran Trippier injured, but Jurgen Klopp will know it would be a fatal mistake to underestimate the hosts.
With that in mind, here's what both sides need to do to make a huge step towards the quarterfinals.
Jurgen Klopp takes his Liverpool side on Tuesday against Diego Simeone & # 39; s Atletico Madrid
Take risks & test Alisson
Even if you manage to break the dumb Liverpool defense, the world's best goalkeeper is probably still in the & # 39; a way.
The Brazilian is incredibly deftly positive, so Simeone's players may get a pop when the opportunity arises.
Atletico must fly early, catch him and move away from the predictable, plump attacking game that is so often seen this season. Atletico ranks 64th in Europe for shots-per-game (11.4), while Liverpool are 15th (15.6).
They have scored 34 goals in 37 games this season, a paltry return for a team of rich talent.
Joao Felix has given a terrible start to life at the club, Costa battled an injury and Morata only just returns to full fitness match. The team must tackle threats from elsewhere and must do something out of the ordinary to rattle visitors.
Thomas Partey and the Atletico Madrid side have to fly out of reach to test Alisson
The Liverpool goalkeeper has been in excellent form lately after a tight defense
Clean the discipline
It's hard enough to beat Liverpool by 11 men, but if Atletico had a man down, Everest would look even higher.
Simeone loves the dark arts, and even applauds Lucas Vazquez for his deliberate red card in & # 39; e Spanish Super Cup win against his side earlier this season. His team should doubt Liverpool, but be intelligent about it.
His team averaged 13 offense per game compared to Liverpool & # 39; s eight. They have also attracted 76 yellow cards and two red points this season, which is 34 more bookings than Tuesday's opposition.
With the scary pace and variety of & # 39; attack of & # 39; e visitors, discipline could be essential.
Atletico Madrid have trouble keeping their discipline and that could be key on Tuesday
Choose your poison
The triumvirates of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah have combined for 40 goals in all competitions. The threat is so well spread that if one doesn't hurt you, another will, but Atletico can advise it to double down on the flanks.
Firmino is a big player but is yet to register a goal in & # 39; Champions League this season in 426 minutes of action. He has also provided just three assists, so if you are looking to fight Liverpool's goalie threats, Salah and Mane are the dangermen, especially with Andy Robertson and Alexander Arnold who don't offer their support widely.
Simeone's side is always working hard, and they will need every bit of that finish from the midfield to provide support to their full-backs and double down on & # 39; the free-scoring wingers.
Roberto Firmino is yet to score in & # 39; Champions League for the Reds this season
The Spanish side wins an average of 22 air duels each game compared to Liverpool & # 39; s 17, so will feel confident in this department, but should maintain concentration at all times.
Liverpool average 35 accurate long balls per game, which is nine more than Atletico. Their direct threat via Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk and even Alisson sometimes has undone a number of teams this season.
Mane and Salah are always looking for a chance to pack the defense and kick on a long ball, so Stefan Savic and Jose Jimenez can't turn off for a moment.
If they have the ball, Atletico will look for Morata and Costa as he passes a fitness test, and Simeone can tell his attackers to attack Robertson or Alexander Arnold at the back post instead of going against Colossus Van Dijk.
Jurgen Klopp's men are favorites to get through their last 16 tie against Atletico Madrid
And here's what Liverpool can do to prevent an upset …
The Assistant King has 11 in all competitions and his delivery is up there with the best in the world. Simeone's defense will be well organized and he will stop midfield, put in a low block and make it difficult for Liverpool to play through.
The real strength of this Atletico site is its iron core. Saul Niguez and Koke are two of & # 39; best central midfielders in Europe and will find themselves in & # 39; running on the ground. Giorginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho will cut out their work, but that may present opportunities elsewhere.
That brings Alexander-Arnold into the game. He regularly pipes crossroads into the corridor of uncertainty that hates goalkeepers and defenders and it may be the way Klopp sees his men's best chances.
Playmakers are rarely deployed at right-back, but the 21-year-old is entrusted with an anomaly with a lot of creative freedom. It could be another big night for Liverpool's talented technician.
The delivery of Trent Alexander-Arnold could be crucial for Atletico Madrid's defense
Fly out the blocks
Atletico have been a rotten form, winning just one of their last six matches over La Liga and the Spanish Cup. The crowds are at ease, there is a nasty injury list and all is not well on the Wanda Metropolitano.
But these are some of & # 39; s most passionate fans in Spain and the stadium can be a hostile place to play if Atletico gives them something to shout about.
It can also be a relief to welcome the best club side in the world and escape the domestic doldrums. They love an underdog tag, so Liverpool likes to silence the public, assess their authority and dictate play from the off.
The last thing Klopp wants is to be drawn into a dogfight, which is the kind of environment in which Atletico lives.
That said, Atletico's desperation to take some sort of result back to Anfield could play directly into Liverpool's hands if the capital takes unnecessary risks.
Mo Salah and Co. are hoping for a quick start to silence what a hostile stadium might be
Align the left flank
Liverpool's fullbacks are as dangerous, as are their wingers. This is an area of the field where they also specifically match Atletico.
Kieran Trippier has been to St George & # 39; s Park to rehabilitate a reading injury at the time of Tuesday's game, but it seems likely to come too soon for the England international.
His absence will mean that Santiago Arias or Sime Vrsaljko will play at right-back. The Colombian Arias has only started six games this season in La Liga and two in the Champions League and Vrsaljko is more complete bombing forward than in defense. Liverpool will have a sense of feeling from the left.
If Arias hits the tide, Renan Lodi, the 21-year-old Brazilian left-back can offer more value to the Reds.
Those full-backs could be a long night and the most difficult examination of their career.
Santiago Arias looks like a weak switch and could be targeted if he starts on Tuesday
Sime Vrsaljko is progressing better than in defense and is another option at right back
. (tagsToTranslate) dailymail (t) sport (t) football (t) Champions League (t) Liverpool (t) Jurgen Klopp (t) Atletico Madrid