Diego Simeone admitted to a weakness that saw Atletico Madrid knocked out of the UEFA Champions League last season. It’s a weakness that suits Jurgen Klopp perfectly.
Atletico took a 2-0 lead to Turin a year ago – a seemingly unassailable advantage. Juventus turned things around, however, winning 3-0 and knocking the Spaniards out of the competition.
One year later – and on the eve of a trip to Anfield with a 1-0 lead – Simeone talked about what went wrong.
“We couldn’t play in Turin, we just never played,” he told his pre-match press conference (per the Echo). “We couldn’t compete. They never let us compete.
“Hopefully tomorrow we can compete and that will be closer to what we want.”
A delve into the stats gives an idea of what happened a year ago (per UEFA.com). Atletico, for instance, cleared the ball 22 times in Turin to Juventus’ nine – simply put, Juve didn’t let them play.
But Atletico, in defending their lead, couldn’t stop Juve from using the ball. It’s reflected in the shot count, too.
Juve attempted 15 shots at home, hitting the target with four and scoring three. Atletico mustered just four and didn’t hit the target once. There was no danger of an away goal.
And how could there be? Atletico couldn’t get out and up the pitch. They started deep and Juve kept them there.
That’s a weakness, as Simeone admits, and it’s something Liverpool can do to Atletico on Wednesday. In fact, Klopp has already said he’ll do that.
“[We need to] defend [Atletico’s] counter-attacks, get the ball back – the best way to defend counter-attacks is to defend them with counter-press, win the ball back, use the space they create in that moment, all this kind of stuff,” he said on Wednesday.
Some teams might prefer caution but the Reds like to push high and force teams to play it long. When you’ve got defenders as good and athletic as Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, that suits them perfectly.
So is that’s the way to stop Atletico, Liverpool are in luck. They like to do it anyway and are the best in the world at pressing high and counter-pressing. And if Atletico can’t handle that, then the Reds are in pole position.