The defending champions have a hill to climb to avoid the possibility of an early Champions League exit…
Bar an inconsequential defeat to Napoli in the group stage and the second team’s thumping at the hands of Aston Villa in the League Cup, Jurgen Klopp’s side had not lost a single game this season prior to the first leg.
In contrast, an Atletico were in poor form, winning just one of their last seven games across all competitions. But Los Colchoneros saw the 90 minutes at home through in the most Atletico manner possible – a deep block to protect an early lead.
Since, Liverpool have lost two games – 3-0 against Watford in the Premier League and 2-0 against Chelsea in the FA Cup. The dreams of an invincible season and that of a continental treble was hence shattered in a matter of just five days.
They now face the mental challenge of picking themselves up and inflicting a defeat on the team that started it all. The deficit could be of just one goal, but Diego Simeone’s Atletico is probably the best team in Europe that can be tasked to defend the slender lead.
It’s also noteworthy that Klopp’s men will have to score at least three goals if they are unable to keep a clean-sheet. The margin of error in all departments is very little.
The Reds’ faithful will be quick to point out that they pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the competition last season when they overcame a three-goal deficit from Camp Nou. However, the current Atletico side, despite its numerous flaws, is more resilient, less complacent and not as mentally fragile as the Barcelona side that lost 4-0 at Anfield.
The tie is definitely still very much in the balance. But Liverpool’s defence is leaking goals, having conceded nine in four games since their visit to the Metropolitano last month. Atletico are 13 points off the top of the La Liga table, outside the top-four, and are likely to turn to the Champions League to find solace in what has been a disappointing season. It is safe to assume they will defend the lead with great grit and determination.
Liverpool will require an inspirational performance from all the players to qualify for the next round and get their season back on track. Because failure to get past the Spanish side and a couple of defeats in the remaining league fixtures could turn Liverpool’s ‘extraordinary’ season to a regular title-winning season, paling in comparison to Manchester City’s domestic dominance in the last two seasons.
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