European action makes its long-awaited return as the first round of knockouts pits Liverpool against Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.
Atletico Madrid vs. Liverpool
Tuesday, February 18, 2020 – 8pm (GMT)
Wanda Metropolitano Stadium
Champions League Last-16 First Leg
Referee: Szymon Marciniak (Poland)
The Reds make a return to the scene of the club’s sixth European Cup triumph, only this time the stadium’s permanent residents will line up opposite Jurgen Klopp’s men.
After over two months without Champions League football, the stage is now set for the knockout rounds – where the Reds meet Atletico for the first time in a competitive fixture since 2010.
And Liverpool head into the clash off the back of 17 consecutive Premier League wins following their 1-0 victory in a tightly-contested clash at Norwich over the weekend.
The Reds have just one blemish on their record in the topflight and remain in contention to clinch a further three pieces of silverware this season.
Atletico, meanwhile, have stumbled throughout the season to date after struggling to find a level of consistency in their play – leaving them 13 points adrift of rivals Real Madrid at the top of La Liga at the 24 game mark.
Simeone’s men, who failed to make it beyond the round of 16 last season, sealed their place in the knockouts after finishing as runners-up behind Juventus in Group D, picking up 10 points from the 18 available.
Liverpool, meanwhile, finished top of Group E, one point ahead of Napoli after a decisive 2-0 win at Salzburg in the final group game.
While Atletico head into the meeting on the back of a poor run of form, Liverpool will know that they can pose a serious threat on home soil having lost just once in 12 visits from English clubs.
And although Liverpool are unbeaten in two-legged ties in Europe under Klopp, they have tasted defeat in seven of their last 13 away games on the continent.
Nevertheless, Klopp’s side are in formidable form and are righty favourites to take a positive result back to Anfield for the second leg.
As was the case heading into the clash against Norwich, Liverpool’s squad is in a healthy position across the board.
Aside from the long-term injuries to Nathaniel Clyne and Paul Glatzel, Xherdan Shaqiri (calf) was the sole absentee as the Reds emerged as victors at a blustery Carrow Road.
The Swiss international remains sidelined and unavailable for selection, six weeks after his last appearance at the death in the victory over Tottenham on January 11.
Elsewhere, Sadio Mane made a successful return to the field on Saturday after spending over two weeks on the sidelines, scoring the all-important goal to move the Reds 25 points clear at the top.
The winger’s presence offers yet another boost for Klopp who was also able to hand Fabinho a further half-hour under his belt over the weekend as he continues to be put through his paces to help find his rhythm after a lengthy layoff.
Similarly, James Milner‘s expertise has been injected back into the squad after his recovery from a hamstring injury, adding to the likes of Naby Keita, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Takumi Minamino in the middle of the park.
An abundance of options is therefore on the cards, but the boss is likely to stick to a trusted midfield combination of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum alongside his settled back five and prolific front three.
Remarkably, it would be the debut for that particular XI this season as they have yet to all take their place on the field together across any competition so far.
Atletico, however, have had to contend with a number of injuries in recent weeks and will be without ex-Tottenham defender Kieran Trippier due to a groin injury.
Joao Felix was set to be in the mix for the clash after recovering from an injury but will now miss out through illness, as will midfielder Hector Herrera.
Diego Costa, meanwhile, returned to training on Monday after over three months on the sidelines with a herniated cervical disc and could feature in some capacity, while fellow former Chelsea forward Alvaro Morata is fit after making a cameo appearance last time out.
Liverpool’s 21-man Squad
Goalkeepers: Alisson, Adrian, Kelleher
Defenders: Van Dijk, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Matip, Lovren
Midfielders: Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Keita, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana, Minamino
Forwards: Firmino, Mane, Salah, Origi
Last 4 Against Atletico (All Competitions)
Won 2-1 – April 2010 (Aquilani, Benayoun; Forlan)
Lost 1-0 – April 2010 (Forlan)
Drew 1-1 – November 2008 (Gerrard pen; Rodriguez)
Drew 1-1 – October 2008 (Sabrosa; Keane)
Wanda Metropolitano Stadium
Address: Wanda Metropolitano, Av. de Luis Aragonés, 4, 28022
The stadium is, of course, where the Reds lifted their sixth European Cup and the club have released an information packet for travelling fans.
It is important to note that the game kicks off in Madrid at 9pm local time (8pm GMT) and the nearest train station is Canillejas on the Metro Line 5 (green line), but be sure to give yourself plenty of time to arrive.
Did You Know?
This is the first time, in a competitive fixture, that Klopp and Simeone will go head to head.
The pair played out a pre-season friendly in the Audi Cup final in Munich at the latter stages of the 2017 pre-season.
Firmino’s spot-kick cancelled out Keidi Bare’s first-half opener for the Reds to see the fixture go to penalties, with Henderson the only one to see his effort saved to hand Atletico and Simeone the victory.
The boss will be eager to make a win count when it matters most, however, as the Reds vie to become the first English club in history to reach three consecutive European Cup finals.
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Won 1-0 vs. Norwich
Won 1-0 vs. Shrewsbury
Won 4-0 vs. Southampton
Won 2-0 vs. West Ham
Drew 2-2 vs. Shrewsbury
Atletico Madrid – Last five results (all competitions)
Drew 2-2 vs. Valencia
Won 1-0 vs. Granada
Lost 1-0 vs. Real Madrid
Drew 0-0 vs. Leganes
Lost 2-1 vs. Leonesa
TV & Liveblog Info
Atletico Madrid vs. Liverpool will be broadcast live in the UK on BT Sport 2, with coverage starting from 7pm (GMT).
To keep you entertained and up to date with all the action on This Is Anfield’s matchday liveblog is Joanna Durkan, starting from 7.15pm (GMT).