THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE knockout stages commence on Tuesday night. We asked Tom Love (@TomLove_18) to source the best bets from Liverpool's trip to Atletico Madrid.
Atletico Madrid v Liverpool | Tuesday 18th February 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
Jurgen Klopp surely has his eyes on an historic treble this season with the Premier League all but wrapped up, the Reds are on the charge for FA Cup glory, as well as consecutive Champions League medals.
The sheer relentlessness of this Reds side is scary. Klopp and co have festered a winning mentality and when such an ethos becomes engrained in a football club it’s virtually impossible to stop them. It’s the workings of a long term strategy in the background that has been sorely lacking in English football. They’ve recruited superbly and have a cutting edge in term of analysis that sets them apart from the rest.
Liverpool have to be delighted with this draw too. On the current season's form, Atletico Madrid are one of the worst sides left in the competition and it’s very hard to see them troubling a Liverpool defence who have conceded a single goal in over two months of football.
Diego Simeone was rightly heralded for leading the unfashionable Atleti to a La Liga and Europa League title, as well as Champions League finals, during his stint with Los Colchoneros but the last year or so have seen a fall off in results despite more and more being spent on the squad.
A pivotal moment in the start of their decline was no doubt losing central midfielder, and leader, Gabi. He along with the likes of Tiago, and latterly Antoine Griezmann, Filipe Luis and Diego Godin departing has left a character void in the roster and they just don’t seem to have that elite ‘you will not beat us’ mentality.
Simeone promised a change to a more free flowing, attacking approach but no sooner was the season a month old he reverted back to type.
These kind of managers can only go so far in my eyes. If you just can’t break teams down or aren’t willing to commit bodies forward due to an obsession with shape off the ball it has a shelf life with players and eventually they’ll get fed up. It just has that kind of feeling at the capital club at the moment, it’s all a bit tired.
Having said that you cannot scoff at Atleti's excellent home record in this particular competition. You have to go back to 2017 when Chelsea beat them 2-1 for the last time they lost at the Wanda Metropolitano. In fact it’s just two losses in their last 33 at home when competing in the Champions League – a quite staggering record. It’s even more insane to think they’ve conceded just 12 goals in that stretch.
Tight tussle forecast
I could understand why people would be tempted by the price on Liverpool here at odds-against but given that record, and the fact this is over two legs, I’m not willing to back them in the outright market here despite their excellent campaign.
I’m not expecting a classic, well, it could be a classic Atletico performance. I’d expect the hosts to sit off in a disciplined two banks of four with makeshift strikers Angel Correa and Vitolo sitting deep. It just has that feeling of a game without much goalmouth action, especially so given it’s a first leg, and on balance a draw would probably be sufficient for both managers.
The stalemate can be backed at a more than fair 23/10 with Boylesports and I wouldn’t even put anyone off a punt on No Goalscorer at 11/2.
Another market that follows on from that thought process is laying the match shots. I’m surprised the shot line is set at 24.5 on Bet365 and I’m happy to side with the unders. As mentioned, I’m expecting plenty of possession but little penetration, and given Atleti average 11.8 shots in La Liga but only concede 10.5, I’m happy to back the under for this one.
Card handicap appeals
Finally, I think there’s a great looking bet in the card market and that’s backing Atleti with a 0 start on the Asian Card Handicap. I appreciate that’s quite a mouthful and it may be a market you’re not familiar with so I will explain.
This can be found under the cards tab on Bet365 and it is listed as Asian Handicap Cards. Effectively we are backing Atletico Madrid to pick up more cards than Liverpool with the caveat that should the two teams have an equal amount of cards then we get our stakes returned. So Atleti most cards = win, equal cards = money back, Liverpool most cards = loss.
I couldn’t believe that you could get 4/5 quotes on this bet and it’s one of my favourites of the week. Atletico are seeing an average of around 2.5 cards per-game in their native league whilst Liverpool are the best behaved team in the Premier League with an average of 1.0 card per-game.
With Atleti likely to be doing most the defending and the fact Spanish team in general are more dirty/streetwise than English ones, I think this represents a fantastic angle into what could be a rather drab affair.
Atletico Madrid v Liverpool – Draw (23/10 Boylesports)
Atletico Madrid v Liverpool – Atletico Madrid 0.0 Asian Handicap Cards (4/5 Bet365)
Atletico Madrid v Liverpool – Under 24.5 Shots (10/11 Bet365)