The knockout phase of this season’s Champions League soccer gets underway when Atlético Madrid host holders Liverpool in the first leg of their round of 16 tie at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium (3pm ET Tuesday).
On paper, it looks a tough tie for Liverpool, as Atlético have good recent pedigree in the competition. They were losing finalists in 2014 and 2016, and reached the semi-finals in 2017, although they have struggled to make similar progress in the last two years.
Atlético were eliminated at the group stage a couple of seasons back, although they did recover from that to go and lift the Europa League. Last time around, their campaign ended at this exact juncture. They were confident as they took a 2-0 lead in the second leg of their encounter with Juventus, only for their hosts to overcome that deficit by beating them 0-3.
Diego Simeone’s side made it through to the knockouts of this year’s competition by finishing second behind Juventus in Group D, but their league results haven’t matched their usual standards. They are in the top-four race in La Liga, but are nevertheless on course to finish with over 10 points less than they accumulated in finishing second last year.
There are many potential reasons. Last summer saw a number of their long-serving veterans depart and the influx of a number of new players. There are some who believe that Simeone’s methods are starting to wear thin in his ninth year in the role. They have had a lot of injuries this season. The underlying statistics suggest they are creating enough chances to have more points on the board than they do. The finishing gods just haven’t been with them.
Whichever of those you subscribe to, the reality is that it is a hard to see an Atlético side who have won just one of their last six matches in all competitions competing on an even footing with this Liverpool juggernaut. That is even with Alvaro Morata, Diego Costa (both had spells at Chelsea) and Jose Maria Gimenez all potentially back in action after their respective injuries.
Liverpool continued their seemingly inexorable march to both the Premier League title and a number of the league’s records with a 1-0 win away at Norwich on Saturday. They had to wait longer than they would have expected to find a goal against the division’s bottom side, making the breakthrough with Sadio Mane’s 78th-minute strike.
We are now 26 matches into the season and Liverpool have still only dropped two points in building up an unassailable lead of over 20. Such is their advantage that they can attack the Champions League again at full pelt without worrying too much about dropping a few points here and there in the Premier League if rotation or tiredness lowers their level a little.
Jurgen Klopp’s squad have reached the final of the competition in each of the last two seasons. Two years ago, they were defeated by Real Madrid. Last year, they beat Tottenham Hotspur to claim their sixth European Cup / Champions League. A third consecutive final would make them the first side since Juventus in the mid-to-late-nineties to achieve that. A seventh trophy would move them level with Milan as the second-most successful side in its history.
Liverpool made it through to the knockouts by winning Group E, although their place in the knockouts wasn’t assured until the final round of matches. Now here, they are just too well-drilled and have too much talent in key areas to think that an exit at this stage is likely. They are excellent at both ends of the pitch, and while Simeone knows how to organise a defence, Atlético don’t carry anywhere near the same threat in attack as their midweek visitors.
Our Betting Preview’s Atlético Madrid vs Liverpool Predictions & Picks Verdict
In what will probably be a relatively tight match, in keeping with Atlético’s usual approach in these kinds of knockout ties, it is still Liverpool who can be fancied to come away with an advantage to defend on home soil. When it comes to having a wager with the best USA sports gambling oddsmakers, this is our Atlético Madrid vs Liverpool betting prediction and pick for this Champions League first leg game:
- Bet on Liverpool to win @ +120 on the moneyline with Bovada.