How many times do we hear various pundits proclaim Liverpool require a ‘big European night at Anfield.’? Far too often for my liking. But I have to grudgingly admit on this occasion it rings rather true. Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Madrid, Liverpool most certainly has a task on their hands.
Despite overturning Benfica comfortably at Anfield having been behind against the Portuguese title chasers. Atletico Madrid will be a different prospect all together. The reason being, their a bit good. The first leg, considering Liverpool had no Fernando Torres a single goal deficit is not too bad for Rafa Benitez’s side. Luckily for them Argentine sensation Sergio Aguero was suspended for the first leg. No such luck this time. With the 21 yr old schemer back in the side for Thursdays encounter, Liverpool will have to be tight at the back.
Liverpool can expose Atletico as they only concentrate on attacking football. Their backline personnel are not of any note. Hence why occasionally they can show up and perform admirably or if the likes of Diego Forlan and Simao do not turn up, can be hammered. Liverpool will be hoping for the latter. Despite this Liverpool must not adopt the usual Rafa Benitez mould of seven holding midfielders with a lone striker left completely alone. Poor Steven Gerrard must run 15 miles a game just to help support. Could explain why he has had such a lacklustre campaign. Tonight Liverpool has to go for it.
This means giving Alberto Aquilani a start. He played very well against Burnley at the weekend and deserves a game. Allow the Italian to play the role Steven Gerrard currently operates in of supporting the striker. Steven Gerrard aka ‘Mr Liverpool’ could drop back into a midfield duo of himself and Javier Mascherano. Here you have protection and creativity in abundance. Who needs Rafa hey? Liverpool fans may be delighted at the improvements Lucas has been making, yet there are better players that can play in a more creative system. Simple really. A bench role for the young Brazilian would be my choice.
Now with no Torres who does Liverpool give the front lying role to? It is a difficult one. Does Rafa go for pace, strength and a rifle shot? Or the more controlled fox who can read the game much better and get himself into good positions? Ryan Babel or David Ngog. For raw talent I think it’s quite obvious Ryan Babel wins hands down. But despite Ngog’s insistence on missing chances, he creates space for himself to get the chance itself. With Gerrard and Aquilani slipping balls through, I would start Ngog.
This tie is very balanced, at Anfield I would expect Liverpool to rise to the occasion. But if young Sergio Aguero is in the mood, expect Liverpool to concede. This game has goals written all over it. Unfortunately I’m going to have to say Atletico to go through on away goals.
Prediction: 2-1 Liverpool. Atletico go through on away goals.
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