Champions League previews
ATLETICO MADRID v LIVERPOOL
Jurgen Klopp’s men can do no wrong right now as they are cantering to their first Premier League title with a gargantuan 25-point gap back to Manchester City in second spot.
On the continent, Liverpool are bidding to become only the second team in history to successfully defend their Champions League title after Real Madrid.
And it would take a brave man to bet against them as they are in the midst of a record-breaking unbeaten run that sees them having dropped only two points in the league all season and have won 17 on the trot.
To make matters worse for Atletico Madrid, Klopp has a full squad to choose from, with Fabinho, Joel Matip and Sadio Mane — who scored the winner against Norwich on his return to action at the weekend — all fit again.
A small glimmer of hope for Atletico will be Liverpool’s troubles on the road in Europe. Last season they lost all three games in the group stage away from Anfield, and this campaign saw them lose 2-0 to Napoli.
Even so, Atletico will need to produce the performance of a lifetime over the two legs if they are to cause one of the tournament’s biggest upsets and dump Liverpool out of the competition.
They are 12 points adrift of leaders Real Madrid in La Liga and questions are being asked of coach Diego Simeone.
Avoiding defeat at home and securing a clean sheet have to be on Atletico’s must-do list if they are to stand any chance, but that looks like a tall order given that their front line is in tatters with Diego Costa, Joao Felix out injured and Alvaro Morata looking like a major fitness doubt.
Avoiding a thrashing may be a more realistic target for Atletico what will surely be a long over 180 minutes for them.
BORUSSIA DORTMUND v PARIS ST-GERMAIN
The major worry for Paris St-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel is the fitness of star striker Neymar, who has missed the last four games with a rib injury. The Brazilian insists he is ready to play but there will be no room for rustiness against a prolific Dortmund front-line that is averaging three goals a game in the Bundesliga.
There are plenty of attacking options for Tuchel, with Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi, Angel Di Maria and Edinson Cavani to call on, but PSG’s back four will be in for a torrid time if they stick to the form shown in the astonishing 4-4 draw with Amiens at the weekend. Tuchel hooked central defender Thiago Silva against the 19th-placed Amiens, but he should start in Germany. Dortmund’s strike force of Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus and Erling Braut Haland will be going all out to kill the game off before the trip to Paris, but they know an away goal could change the complexion of the tie completely.
This should be a close tie that could go the full distance, but PSG’s potent firepower sure more than make up for their leaky defence.