28 April 2010

Liverpool v Atletico Madrid 04.29.10

Atletico lead 1-0 on aggregate.

3:05pm ET, live in the US on GolTV.

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 4-0 Burnley (a); 0-1 Atletico (a); 3-0 West Ham (h)
Atletico: 3-1 Tenerife (h); 1-0 Liverpool (h); 1-2 Villareal (a)

Liverpool: 4-1 Benfica (h); 1-2 Benfica (a)
Atletico: 0-0 Valencia (h); 2-2 Valencia (a)

Round of 16:
Liverpool: 3-0 Lille (h); 0-1 Lille (a)
Atletico: 2-2 Sporting (a); 0-0 Sporting (h)

Round of 32:
Liverpool: 3-1 Unirea (a); 1-0 Unirea (h)
Atletico: 2-1 Galatasaray (a); 1-1 Galatasaray (h)

Group Stage Results:
Liverpool: 1-2 Fiorentina (h); 1-0 Debrecen (a); 1-1 Lyon (a); 1-2 Lyon (h); 0-2 Fiorentina (a); 1-0 Debrecen (h)
Atletico: 0-3 Porto (h); 1-1 APOEL (a); 2-2 Chelsea (h); 0-4 Chelsea (a); 0-2 Porto (a); 0-0 APOEL (h)

Goalscorers (Europe):
Liverpool: Torres 4; Benayoun, Babel, Gerrard, Kuyt, Ngog 2; Agger, Lucas, Mascherano 1
Atletico: Aguero 6; Forlan 4; Simão 2; Lopez, Maxi, Reyes 1

Referee: Terje Hauge (NOR)

Hauge has been in charge of past Liverpool matches against Marseille (4-0), Monaco (2-0), Celtic (1-1), Valencia (0-1) and Haka (4-1).

Guess at a squad:
Johnson Carragher Kyrgiakos Agger
Lucas Mascherano
Gerrard Aquilani Benayoun

Kuyt and Ngog will both be late decisions, having picked up knocks against Burnley and Atletico respectively. Torres is obviously still out. Maxi’s ineligible and Riera’s been locked in a Melwood storage closet for more than a month now. It’ll be an interesting front six to say the least.

Without Kuyt and Ngog, Liverpool’s hands are tied to a large extent. Babel would have to start up top, with no other recognized strikers in the first team. Youngsters such as Pacheco and even Dalla Valle (who would have to be added to the B-list) could be substitutes. Both Kuyt and Ngog are supposed to train tomorrow, and at least one if not both will probably make the bench for lack of options. But I’d be surprised if Benitez relied on a half-fit striker in a European semi-final. And even if Kuyt’s healthy enough to play, I think I’d rather him on the right based on what we saw at Burnley.

With Babel up top, support from midfield will be crucial. Which is why I’m guessing all four “central” midfielders – Gerrard, Aquilani, Lucas, and Mascherano – will start. Aquilani was excellent “in the hole” (one in the hole, you say?) on Sunday with Gerrard partnering Mascherano deeper. But with Kuyt out and Babel up top, the options on the right are massively limited – it’s seemingly Gerrard, El Zhar, or Pacheco since Benayoun would be on the left. I know who I’d play in that situation, and I don’t think having Gerrard ostensibly on the flank would diminish his output dramatically.

The backline still has important players missing and still writes itself. Ayala started on Sunday to spell Kyrgiakos, while both Aurelio and Insua are still injured. Maybe Mascherano will play at right back with Johnson on the left – as we saw in the last 20 minutes at Burnley – but it seems a much smaller possibility.

Atletico won their weekend match against relegation candidates Tenerife 3-1, with a brace from Salvio and a capstone from Aguero. The Maradona-in-law will return from suspension on Thursday, and will be the main fear with Liverpool needing to score and Atletico ever so dangerous the counter.

Right back Ujfalusi is Atletico's only new injury doubt – included in the squad but having missed training on Monday – while Tiago and Ibrahima are both ineligible. Aguero for Jurado and Valera for Ujfalusi seem the only likely differences from last week’s team.

With Liverpool needing to overhaul a narrow one-goal deficit against a clever, pacey counter-attacking side, the run-up feels a lot like that prior to Benfica. Replicating that result certainly would be nice, but it won’t be easy considering form and injuries. Liverpool may have overturned deficits in the last two rounds, but they did so with Torres, who notched twice against both Benfica and Lille.

Still, it’s backs against the wall on a European night at Anfield. I’ll take Liverpool’s odds in that situation almost every time.


Abhiram said...

Match date mistake... Written as 22nd April...

Is Agger injured or something? He can still play LB right?

I am lil optimistic and i hope to see 4-4-2 formation. Gerrard on the right... Lucas Macher at CM and Aquilani Babel up frond. Convert 4-4-1-1.

nate said...

Ugh, embarrassing. Thanks. That's usually the first thing I change when re-using the preview from last match/leg. There's always something...

almir said...

Nate, I just want to say, that you are an incredible writer, and I am always fully engrossed in all of your articles.
I always look forward to every pre-match and post match article, you're always spot on. Keep it coming well done.

steven. said...

having to rely on Babel is going to keep me up all night .. this one is going to be tense ..

drew said...

Dreary day today, will be a wet pitch tonight--not soaked but slippery for sure. Very important to test that young keeper (hope someone fills him in on returing the applause of the Kop), and get people in the box following up on everything.

Right now at Williamson Square, lots of Liverpool and Atleti supporters mixing here, as festive as one can be in this weather. Already seen hundreds of flags just here, will be a great night.

drew said...

OK now it's turning into a pretty wretched evening weather-wise and the field could very well be soaked by kickoff.