Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp lost a game of football for the first time since September and the feeling has become somewhat unfamiliar amongst the red half of Merseyside.
The Reds’ Champions League defence hangs in the balance after Liverpool were defeated by Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid outfit on Tuesday evening after Saul Niguez’s early strike was enough to hand the advantage over to the Spanish giants.
Last season’s La Liga runners-up had only won one of their seven previous matches heading into the tie, and overcoming the world and European champions in the middle of their incredible, relentless winning run is an achievement which is commendable and vindication to the great tactical mind that is Simeone.
Liverpool’s anticipated return to the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium brought with it an intense atmosphere their supporters thrived upon, the rigid and impermeable system they used to reduce the European champions space, and rigorously restricted Reds players to very little across every area of the pitch, they were full value for a win and should be credited with a perfect gameplan.
However, fortunately for Liverpool, there are holes to this Atletico team that Klopp and the Reds can exploit similarly to how they did against Barcelona in the second-leg at Anfield on March 11.
Not to worry then, as Liverpool have been in this position before against Spanish opposition.
In last year’s semi-final, Barcelona’s kryptonite was exposed not at Anfield but during Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat at the Camp Nou. The referee blew the whistle immediately after Ousmane Dembélé missed a glorious chance to put Barcelona 4-0 after the first-leg, and though full-time was met with huge celebrations in the home stands, Lionel Messi collapsed to the floor exasperated with his hands over his face. He knew that, even at 3-0, the tie was nowhere near settled, and that his worst fears could unfold in the return leg. Of course, history went on to prove his worries justified.
Messi’s initial fears came to the fore due to Barcelona’s shortcomings in the Champions League during the 2017/18 season. There was an aura of vulnerability when the Catalonia giants came Anfield despite the three-goal advantage following their collapse against Roma the previous season.
Atletico are in a similar position after Los Rojiblancos surrendered a two-goal advantage to Juventus at the same stage of the competition last season.
Simeone’s team are a force to behold at their home fortress but away from the Spanish capital they haven’t won a knockout tie since 2017.
Meanwhile, Klopp is still yet to lose a European knockout tie since joining the club in 2015 – winning all 10 of his previous bouts.
If Atlético can defend their one-goal lead at Anfield as well as they did at the Wanda Metropolitano, then raucous scenes of pandemonium will absolutely be merited.
However, if there is anything we learnt from the first-leg clash, it’s the power of an atmosphere.
Over to you, Anfield.