Liverpool take on Spanish champions Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium tonight. The Reds lost both legs against Diego Simeone’s men in the Round of 16 of the competition two seasons ago. They will be hoping to do better this time round, with a victory tonight all but sealing qualification from the group stages. We take a guess at what team Jurgen Klopp could line up with.

Alisson Becker should come back in goalp after he and Fabinho missed the trip to Watford due to the quick turnaround between the last Brazil game and kickoff at Vicarage Road. The two full backs were given a rest on 65 minutes at Watford so that should suggest a start here. Tuesday to Sunday is a big enough gap for them to still be fresh for the mammoth clash at Old Trafford.

An argument could be made for rotation at centre back. Virgil Van Dijk did play twice for his country during the break, so asking him to then play three times in eight days for the club could be a stretch. Joel Matip is another who isn’t usually tasked with playing three games in eight days without fitness issues arising. Then again, Klopp resisted the urge to rotate when he played them against Brentford, Porto and City.

Joe Gomez and Ibrahima Konaté are both raring to go if given the opportunity but I reckon Klopp will resist the urge to chop and change. Watford wasn’t as intense a game as you’d normally get as a centre back, and like I said, Tuesday to Sunday is a big enough gap. I expect the first choice back five to all line up with the manager taking this game more seriously than some would think. I’ve seen some say it’s a bit of a free hit.

I disagree. The team won’t want to lose to this lot again, neither will the manager. And if we can secure a win, it also opens up a potentially crucial ‘free’ midweek in the festive period as we most likely would be already through by the time the last group game (a trip to San Siro) comes around. With that being said, I expect a strong midfield comprising of the returning Fabinho, the skipper Henderson and Naby Keita.

Keita is enjoying a good run of games and should keep that going. His last visit to Madrid isn’t one he’d like to remember as he was dragged off after about 40 minutes after a poor showing against Atleti’s cross-town rivals Real. He played well at Watford and should keep his place. He featured on the right hand side and his combination with Salah wasn’t as assured. He will most likely be back on the left of midfield tonight, with his understanding with Mané one that’s more developed.

In attack, the ‘original’ front three were on song at the weekend in just their second start together this season. It’s all about keeping momentum with this lineup so I predict Jurgen to go with Salah, Firmino and Mané again, even though Jota was unused at Watford and should in theory, be fresher. With five subs being available in the Champions League, he will likely get the chance to punish his former team in the second half.

Predicted team:

Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Henderson, Keita, Salah, Firmino, Mané.

Subs: Kelleher, Adrian, Gomez, Konaté, Phillips, Williams, Tsimikas, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jota, Minamino, Origi.


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