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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 8 August, 2020
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REJOICE! THE CHAMPIONS League knock-out stages are back, having produced some of the century’s greatest sporting moments in the last few years. 

We return with the Champions at the scene of their triumph, as Liverpool go back to the Wanda Metropolitano to face Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their last-16 clash. 

Klopp’s side have been nigh impeccable thus far this season and are understandable favourites for this clash, particularly considering Atleti’s form. They are 12 points adrift of La Liga leaders Real and are now battling for fourth spot, and have been knocked out of the Copa Del Rey by a third-tier side. 

 This is all they have left…which perhaps makes them a more dangerous opponent. 

Kick-off is at 8pm, and get in touch by emailing gavincooney@the42.ie, or drop a comment below the lines. 

Team news follows next…

Team News 

Atletico Madrid 

Heeeere’s Atleti. Some of their injury issues have cleared up, which means the talismanic Koke continues in midfield and Alvaro Morata leads the line. Kieran Trippier and Joao Felix are out, however, with Sime Vrsjalko slotting in at right-back and Diego Costa returning to the bench to compensate for those absences. 

Defender Jose Gimenez only makes the bench, while Simeone surprisingly gives Thomas Lemar a shot on the left – the French attacker has plenty to prove. 

 Liverpool 

Sadio Mane is fit to start, so Jurgen Klopp puts together what looks like his strongest XI for, remarkably, the first time. 

“The hard-working, collective endeavour of Simeone’s Atletico felt like a rebuke to their royalist city rivals, who predicated their success on a hierarchy of talents. Remember Florentio Perez’s mantra of Zidanes y Pavones? 

“That project foundered on its own decadence when they recruited too many Zidanes, but years later, Simeone gave the impression his ideal team would consist of Pavones y Pavones. Atletico, a club once resigned to forever being the poor relation in their city, were made successful by Diego Simeone precisely because of that status.

“And what a success it has been. In terms of silver: a League title, a Copa Del Rey, two Europa League titles…and those two Champions League final defeats to Real Madrid. Arguably most successful is the fact they’ve spent years forcing us to recast the La Liga as a three-horse race.

“This success was relatively cheaply made, but the true cost of it is only becoming apparent now. It’s the Simeone Paradox: to beat the establishment he must be separate from them…but now that he’s beaten the establishment, he finds himself among them.

“So how to beat them again?”

Read our match preview here. 

The last time these side’s met, Diego Forlan scored an extra-time winner in the semi-finals of the 2009/10 Europa League to qualify for a final against Roy Hodgson’s Fulham. That Hodgson brought Fulham that far was a big reason he was handed the Liverpool job a year later. 

soccer-uefa-europa-league-semi-final-second-leg-liverpool-v-atletico-madrid-anfield Source: EMPICS Sport

There were more present Premier League players in the Atleti team than the Liverpool side: David De Gea and Sergio Aguero, to Pepe Reina.

This game is clashing with another cracking tie: Borussia Dortmund vs PSG. We’ll keep you updated on the goals and major events from there, too. 

Yellow Peril: Only Andy Robertson will miss the return leg at Anfield if he picks up a yellow card tonight. 

Remarkable scenes, as Atletico fans welcome their side to the ground…

Liverpool are favourites for sure, but they will have to negotiate Atletico’s remarkable home record in knockout ties under Simeone. 

That said..Liverpool have yet to lose a two-legged European tie under Klopp, and it’s been 11 years since they lost one in the Champions League. (Okay, there were a few years in the wilderness thrown in there.) 

The teams are in the tunnel. We are only minutes away from the first sign that the winter is ending – the return of the Champions League! 

The setting is, in fairness, spectacular, as the sides stride out to a gigantic Atlei-themed tifo. 

The Champions League anthem is then whistled by Atletico supporters, for some reason. 

Peeeeeep - We’re underway in Madrid!

2Mins

Firmino signals Liverpool’s pressing intention by robbing Koke, but the move fizzles out to nothing. The crowd are rising to the occasion, with Liverpool whistled and jeered every time they touch the ball. 

4Mins

Morata goes close! Atletico press Liverpool back, with Mane robbed of the ball. The ball is switched left to Lodi, who whips a gorgeous cross in that skims off Morata’s head in the six-yard box! 

5Mins

GOAL! Atletico 1-0 Liverpool (Saul)

Wow, what a start for Atletico! A corner into the area clumsily hits Fabinho and the ball breaks back to Saul in the six-yard box, who finishes beyond Alisson! 

6Mins

The noise in the stadium is bonkers, now. Atletico mean business. 

8Mins

Correa is slid in behind on a central free-kick behind a dozy Liverpool defence, and slides the ball wide of the far post. It was ultimately flagged offside, although replays suggest the linesman got it wrong. 

9Mins

Atletico are dropping into a 5-3-2 without possession, a la Manchester United a few weeks back. 

They aren’t dropping too deep, though, and are pressing Liverpool with considerable intensity. 

11Mins

Better from Liverpool, as Firmino robs Partey in midfield, but the move is wasted by an awful Alexander-Arnold cross, that sails over the bar. 

13Mins

It’s all Liverpool at the moment, but they can’t find a way through Atletico. 

14Mins

Alexander-Arnold ends another Liverpool attack with an almost identically bad cross over Oblak’s crossbar. Liverpool fans are trying to raise a song, but can’t penetrate thje ear-splitting whistling of Atletico fans whenever opposition players have the ball. 

16Mins

Liverpool totally hogging the ball now. No way through yet, mind…

19Mins

Liverpool have Atletico totally hemmed in now. Robertson crosses to the back post, and Vrsaljko heads clear. Then Alexander-Arnold hoists one to other post and Lodi clears. The move ends with an overcooked Henderson pass, and relief rolls around the ground. 

Liverpool have Atletico under massive pressure. 

21Mins

Robertson foils a second goal! A stunning Lodi cross is ready to reach Morata at the backl post, but Robertson arrives to nudge the ball away and behind for a corner! 

22Mins

22Mins

Felipe spends some time on the floor but is fine to continue. Surely they’re not wasint time already? 

When the game restarts, Morata absolutely clatters Fabinho and Liverpool have a free-kick wide on the right. 

24Mins

The free is easily cleared, another poor Alexander-Arnold effort. 

25Mins

Salah is bemused – he robs Lodi of the ball by the corner flag in what seems like a perfectly fine tackle, but the defender throws himself to the ground and earns the whistle he was looking for. 

26Mins

Big save Alisson!

It’s an error by Van Dijk who heads the ball down in the area to Morata, but his touch, control and shot is finally foiled by the Liverpool goalkeeper! 

28Mins

Liverpool have a goal disallowed! 

Oblak gets away with a howler at the other end, skewing a goal-kick to Salah, who knocks the ball ahead of him to Firmino before taking the return and passing the ball into an empty net. Firmino, however, was a mile offside, so the goal is ruled off with no objection. 

28Mins

67% possession for Liverpool, but they’ve not even had a shot yet, never mind a shot on target. 

30Mins

Firmino lays the ball off to Andy Robertson, who gets a rush of blood to his head and takes a pop from distance off his weaker right foot. It drifts well wide. 

30Mins

Now Fabinho drives a long-range shot miles wide. Perhaps a sign that Liverpool are beginning to get frustrated… 

33Mins

We’re back to ceaseless Liverpool pressure. But still they can’t find a way through the Atletico rearguard. 

36Mins

Big block by Savic! Firmino and Mane dance their way through the defence, and the ball breaks for Salah on the penalty spot. His first-time shot is destined for the corner, but is blocked away by the defender. Liverpool have their first corner. 

36Mins

The corner goes short and Alexander-Arnold takes a pass back, and then whips a low cross right across the face of the goal, missing Firmino at the front post and Van Dijk at the back! 

36Mins

Liverpool win another corner, and they are beginning to really turn the screw now…

38Mins

Alexander-Arnold’s corner is poor, and easily cleared at the front post by Morata. 

41Mins

Liverpool aren’t being helped by a couple of uncharacteristic performances, with Alexander-Arnold very wasteful at right-back. 

Sadio Mane, meanwhile, is booked for a foul on Vrsaljko. 

40Mins

Fabinho hoiks a dreadful pass out of play. 

45Mins

Correa goes into the book for a late challenge on Henderson. 

45Mins

1 minute to be added on. 

46Mins

Atletico heap the pressure on the referee, as Sadio Mane’s arm catches Vrsjalko. Mane has already been booked – as the Atletico fans politely point out – but the referee is unmoved. 

46Mins

HT: Atletico 1-0 Liverpool 

Liverpool have dominated most of the game and most of the pitch, but Atletico have been better in both boxes. They rattled Liverpool in the fourth minute, and have since flooded numbers back and Liverpool have consequently created very little. 

A long way to go, but this is humming along nicely for Diego Simeone… 

45Mins

It’s 0-0 between Dortmund and PSG at half-time, by the way. 

45Mins

Change at the break for Liverpool: Sadio Mane – booked in the first half – makes way for Divock Origi. 

Meanwhile, Simeone has taken off Thomas Lemar for the more defensive-minded Marcos Llorente. 

45Mins

The second half is underway! 

45Mins

Fabinho loses the ball in midfield but Firmino recovers, only to lose the ball himself. Correa then steals in behind Robertson, but dallies over his pull-back and the chance is thwarted! 

At the other end, Salah forces Lodi to give Liverpool a corner. 

50Mins

Liverpool work a short corner, and Alexander-Arnold’s cross is flicked into the box by Henderson and controlled by Wijnaldum’s arm, and the move ends with an Atleti free-kick. 

52Mins

Big chance Salah! Joe Gomez flights a terrific cross to the back post to a completely unmarked Salah, whose header is tame and into the side-netting. 

54Mins

It’s all Liverpool once again, and Vrsaljko fouls Origi along the left touchline. 

54Mins

The set-piece is worked smartly short, and Savic does well to head away a terrific Alexander-Arnold cross. 

55Mins

Now Firmino forces a corner. This is approaching a scene from the Alamo. 

56Mins

Again Liverpool roll the corner short, and again Fabinho elects to shoot from distance. It’s blocked away, but Liverpool come again, and Lodi thwacks the ball clear on the endline. 

Relentless pressure…will Atletico crack? 

58Mins

Joe Gomez is booked for fouling Morata in the centre circle and Atletico get some blessed respite. 

58Mins

That soon ends with the ball dribbling harmlessly over the end-line. Atletico are offering nothing on the ball in this second half. 

59Mins

Oh my. Origi is sent down the left channel and Oblak comes storming out – a bad decision – but his touch to round the goalkeeper is too heavy and the ball runs out of play. 

60Mins

We’ve ticked into the hour mark and Liverpool have still yet to manage a shot on target… 

61Mins

Good lord, Liverpool finally find a bit of space and Origi dribbles the ball out of play for a second time in a minute. 

64Mins

Liverpool are switching play to try and find some space, but it’s all a little too slow and they just can’t find any space to breathe. 

68Mins

Big chance for Morata! 

The ball is pulled back to Morata on the penalty spot, and as he winds his foot back to pull the trigger…he slips! 

huge let-off for Liverpool! 

68Mins

Elsewhere: Erling Haaland has put Dortmund 1-0 up at home to PSG! 

69Mins

Liverpool have ceded control of this game in the last few minutes, and Atleti are enjoying the chance to play somewhere other than their own box. 

Morata makes way for Vitolo. 

70Mins

Lodi strikes from distance and it whistles narrowly wide of Alisson’s post! 

72Mins

Liverpool make a change: Alex Oxlade-Chamerlain on for, em, Mo Salah. 

Is that Klopp settling for a 0-1!? 

73Mins

Henderson so close! 

Origi – who has replaced Salah on the right – picks Henderson out in the centre of the box, who hooks an acrobatic shot just wide of Oblak’s right-hand post. 

73Mins

In Germany – Neymar equalises for PSG. 

75Mins

A roar rolls around the Wanda – Diego Costa is coming on. 

76Mins

Wow – Haaland has Dortmund 2-1 up on PSG! 

76Mins

Atleti make that change – Diego Costa comes on for Correa. Monstrous roar greets the substitution. 

77Mins

Alexander-Arnold forces a corner off Lodi. Liverpool running out of time for this equaliser…

79Mins

Trouble for Liverpool – Jordan Henderson is down and in need of treatment. Fabinho has signalled to the Liverpool bench that the captain may need to come off, and he is replaced by James Milner. 

79Mins

That’s Klopp out of subs. Taking off Henderson, Salah and Mane wasn’t in the script…

83Mins

Oxlade-Chamberlain misplaces a simple pass to Alexander-Arnold. As doughty as Atletico have been, they’ve been off the pace tonight. 

They look like they have struggled to get to grips with the intensity of the game, after a winter break and the relative comfort of the league… 

86Mins

Oxlade-Chamberlain hooks a blind cross into the box, and it’s easily gathered by Oblak. 

88Mins

Jurgen Klopp, having spent the game leaping and creaming down the touch-line, has been booked by the ref. 

This has not been a good night for Liverpool. 

88Mins

Correa almost gets in on goal but is pinged for a foul on Van Dijk. 

90Mins

Milner fouls Vitolo, and Klopp goes mad again. Liverpool are very frustrated. 

Four added minutes. 

90Mins

Atleti get a chance to break, but Costa blasts a long-range shot well wide. 

91Mins

Alexander-Arnold whips a cross to the back post and Vrsalkjo heads behind under pressure. 

Corner coming…

90Mins

..and the referee gives a foul for a foul on Oblak. 

Atletico are almost home…

90Mins

FT: Atletico Madrid 1-0 Liverpool 

Well. Atletico took a fourth-minute lead and they didn’t relinquish it. They defended doughtily but Liverpool, by their own standards, were poor, and looked taken aback by the intensity of the game having coasted through the Premier League since December. 

Thanks for following, bye! 

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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