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Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp's side need European best against Atletico Madrid
Liverpool will call on the famous Anfield atmosphere to help them turn around their tie with Atletico Madrid - but on the field there is no margin for error
Last Updated: 11/03/20 6:08pm
After a 30-year wait, there is little chance of Liverpool's title win feeling underwhelming but the mood will be made all the better if they can celebrate with their European defence ongoing.
If Jurgen Klopp's side are to do that they must overcome a one-goal deficit against Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League tie at Anfield on Wednesday.
History - and Anfield oozes history - is still on Liverpool's side. They say 1-0 is one of the worst results to pick up away from home in the first leg, so how about 3-0? That was the deficit Klopp's team overcame in sensational circumstances to eliminate Lionel Messi and the rest in last season's semi-final against Barcelona. Anfield can be overwhelming on nights like that.
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Klopp is counting on his crowd again. The comforts of home were clearly uppermost in his mind in the aftermath of defeat in a particularly boisterous Metropolitano three weeks ago.
"Emotions are important," he said afterwards. "Tonight they were obviously completely on the side of Atletico, but I am really looking forward to the second leg. We speak from time to time about the power of Anfield and the power a stadium can have and tonight you saw that. The second half will be played in our stadium and they will feel it.
"Atletico fans who can a get ticket... Welcome to Anfield."
If there is anyone around who can channel the energy of the supporters more effectively than Diego Simeone then it is surely Klopp. But the visit of Atletico brings with it dangers too. Liverpool had to be flawless to finish off Barcelona but even in that awe-inspiring performance, one moment would still have been enough to snatch it all away.
Score twice early at Anfield and Liverpool will still be a goal away from surrendering their European crown. That will be a worry throughout the contest - especially with first-choice keeper Alisson ruled out with a hip injury.
Scoring twice early against Atletico is no easy task, anyway. Simeone has taken charge of 19 two-legged knockout matches in this competition and lost only two of them by two clear goals - and both times it needed a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick to do it.
The characteristics of Simeone's side have changed over the years and this is perhaps no longer the team of fully focused mentality monsters that took Atletico to two Champions League finals under the Argentine. But though consistency has eluded this group, it would be a surprise if Simeone is unable to ready them for his particular fight.
Atletico will spoil and they will stifle. Rhythm will be a constant challenge for a Liverpool team who have found it difficult to be at their fluent best since returning from their winter break.
As brilliant as Liverpool have been this season, it nevertheless remains the case the majority of their 29 Premier League results this season would not be enough to take them through this tie in normal time. Even if this goes well, it could be a long night ahead.
So, emotions aside, how do they pull this one off?
Liverpool do not have Ronaldo but they do have a formidable team.
Although it would be unfair to blame Dejan Lovren for Liverpool's emphatic defeat at Watford, given Virgil van Dijk was also below his best, it is perhaps a blessing the Croatian was there. Joe Gomez's return restores belief this was an anomaly. The first-choice back four - with 10 clean sheets in 12 games - can provide the platform again, even if keeper Adrian has not looked quite as assured as Alisson.
In midfield, any remaining dissenters who disputed the scale of Jordan Henderson's influence have been silenced and his return to the team will lift spirits and add energy in the centre of the park. The only two-goal performance of Georginio Wijnaldum's Liverpool career remains that night against Barcelona. How Anfield must crave something close to a repeat from the Netherlands midfielder.
Further forwards, there will be faith the front three can find the goals that will be required. Liverpool supporters have become a little accustomed to Mohamed Salah's heroics - he has 15 goals in 17 games at Anfield this season. But should he add to that tally against Atletico on Wednesday evening it would feel anything but mundane.
Liverpool have the quality to do this. What they do not have is the margin for error. And there is much at stake.
No supporters know better than Liverpool supporters that European glory sets the seal on a season. Four of their six triumphs in this competition came in seasons when the domestic title did not come their way. Rivals' thunder was stolen.
Even in being pipped to the Premier League title by Manchester City last season, Liverpool laughed last. A turnaround would not be ideal. Not when, in the era of the super club, they possess arguably the only super team of the European season. Anfield expects.
Jordan Henderson is available for selection for Liverpool's Champions League last-16 second leg at home to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, Jurgen Klopp has confirmed.
"Hendo is ready, what we do with that I don't know," Klopp said. "Ally (Alisson) will not be ready so we know for sure that it's too early."
Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone admitted there will be few surprises from him or his team on Wednesday as they seek to hold on to a 1-0 advantage in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Liverpool.
"I think it is one of our qualities; it is a very solid quality we have," said Simeone. "If I tell you my plans for the game it wouldn't be logical. I think they [Liverpool] know how we will play after eight years of being here.
"We have to keep what we can during the game. Some managers will say 'we are going to get forward'. That would be a nice pleasant dream."
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