Virgil Van Dijk confident Liverpool can withstand Bayern Munich onslaught

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Virgil Van Dijk expect a tough night at the Allianz Arena.

Centre-back Virgil Van Dijk expects Bayern Munich to come at them in the Allianz Arena but believes the defensive resolve shown this season puts Liverpool in a good position.

However, he accepts they will have to improve their away record as they have lost the last five Champions League matches not played at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp returns to Germany after a goalless last-16, first leg at home, where Bayern left happiest with the draw.

But Liverpool’s defensive record, particularly domestically where they have conceded just 17 goals in 30 Premier League matches, means it will not be easy for the German champions.

“They played very well here, kept it tight especially at the back and they obviously showed us a lot of respect,” said Van Dijk.

“They changed a bit the way they played I think, so we need to be up for a big fight because they are probably going to come all in, especially in the beginning.

The first leg ended in a goal-less stalemate.

“It is going to be tough and we need to do better than we did in the last away games in the Champions League.

“The group stage games were not as good as we wanted but we got through to the knockout phase.

“To keep a clean sheet in the first leg is always good for both teams but we know if we score they need to score two. That is how it is. We want to win the game and go through.”

Van Dijk has been a key part of Liverpool’s huge defensive improvement, justifying the £75million outlay on him just over a year ago.

His commanding presence and organisational skills give the side something they were lacking before and, after being suspended for the first leg, his experience will be vital at the Allianz.

“Sometimes you have to know how to manage games because at times it is going to be very hard and we will need to patient, ready for what is coming,” he added.

“There will times when it is going to be very tough, we are going to be under pressure because they have a lot of quality and they showed that.

“But we will definitely have our own moments because of the quality we have as well.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Juventus v Atletico Madrid talking points as Cristiano Ronaldo faces biggest Bianconeri test

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Cristiano Ronaldo

Juventus and Atletico Madrid lock horns on Tuesday night in the Champions League. Los Rojiblancos hold a 2-0 advantage after a dominating performance at the Wanda Metropolitano last month. 

Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin found the back of the net for the hosts while Jan Oblak ensured that their Italian visitors got nothing in reply. 

When the two teams met in the group stages back in 2014, just one goal was scored over 180 minutes, with Atletico grabbing the honours in that tie. 

Both teams boast sturdy back-lines and it’s safe to assume there won’t be a lot of goals scored in Turin. 

Juve face a daunting task, given one goal by the visitors will leave them needing four. We take a look at some of the talking points ahead of the big game. 

Biggest game of Ronaldo’s Juventus career

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo was brought to Juventus to win the Champions League.

Mr. Champions League took the flight to Turin last summer in search of a ‘new challenge’.  To his credit, Cristiano Ronaldo is currently the top-scorer in Serie A and on course to lead his team to an eighth consecutive Scudetto. 

But their standards are high, and the Bianconeri can’t be content with just the league title. The statement they made by signing the Portuguese was that – after defeats in the 2015 and 2017 finals – they were determined to add a coveted third elite European trophy to their cabinet. 

A domestic double is also out of the question, given Juventus were knocked out by Atalanta in the Copa Italia via a 3-0 humiliation. 

The Italian giants – and Ronaldo in particular – have failed to make it count on the biggest stage in Europe. 

Ronaldo has just one goal to his name in the Champions League so far this term and is under pressure to perform against a side he treated like a punching bag during his time in Spain. Ronaldo has been directly involved in 30 goals in 31 appearances against Atleti and will be licking lips at the prospect of increasing those numbers. 

This is the biggest game of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s Juve career so far and he has to come clutch to strengthen his claim of not only being superior to Lionel Messi, but also not turning out the light prematurely on the first season of his new challenge. 

Chance for Atletico to break Champions League hoodoo

Diego Simeone

Diego Simeone is chasing his own gremlins at Atletico.

Diego Simeone has watched his team get eliminated from the Champions League at the hands of city rivals Real Madrid four times in the last five years. The only time this did not happen, Atletico failed to make it out of the group and ended up being crowned Europa League champions. 

In the Champions League, they have always been in the shadow of their illustrious rivals from across the Spanish capital. The defending but soon to be dethroned champions showed them the door in the 2017 semi-finals while heartbreakingly denying them the title in 2014 and 2016 finals. 

With Los Blancos now out of the competition, Los Rojiblancos have been given a huge boost to go all the way. With their Achilles heel eliminated after a humiliating loss to Ajax, Atletico will have to ensure that a golden opportunity of winning a trophy so evasive – they have never won it – especially in recent history, is dealt with great calmness and composure. 

You can expect Simeone to protect a 2-0 lead, but the Argentine needs to be wary of Juventus’s ability to come back from the jaws of defeat as demonstrated by the Old Lady last season against Real. It took a controversial injury-time penalty from Ronaldo to prevent the Italians from coming back after a 3-0 deficit in the first leg. 

Selection test for Allegri

Joao Cancelo of Juventus

Joao Cancelo must be recalled for the visit of Atletico.

Massimiliano Allegri’s tactical set-up this season has seen a 4-3-3 formation preferred to their traditional 3-5-2. The system is less conservative and more attack-minded. Against Atletico, the Italian might have to tweak it a little to ensure more stability at the back and provide options going forward. 

Joao Cancelo has been one of the best attacking full-backs in Europe this term and his absence provided Atletico more freedom on that flank in the first leg. The Portuguese could prove to be the most crucial piece of the puzzle on Tuesday night. 

A 3-5-2 formation with Alex Sandro and Cancelo as wing-backs could allow Juve to stretch Atletico’s defence and create threats out wide. This also ensures that the defence is secure with three players not burdened with attacking duties unless a set-piece opportunity pops up.

Note that it’s important for the hosts to refrain from conceding as one away goal for Atletico could kill the tie off. 

Blaise Matuidi, Miralem Pjanic and Paulo Dybala can shape the midfield as Ronaldo and Mario Mandzukic lead the front-line. 

Will Allegri opt for Cancelo as an attacking option or will Mattea De Sciglio retain his spot? If he does shift to a 3-5-2, which midfielder will lose his place? The answer to these questions is likely to shape the course of the game. 

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Man City eye big prize and all eyes on Cristiano Ronaldo among Champions League hot topics

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Leroy Sane scores spectacularly in the 3-2 win in Gelsenkirchen.

Manchester City, Liverpool and Barcelona are among the clubs bidding to reach the Champions League quarter-finals this week.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at the main talking points.

City keep eyes on big prize

Manchester City have been installed as favourites to lift the trophy after two late away goals clinched them a roller-coaster 3-2 first-leg win over Schalke.

City are under investigation by both UEFA and the Premier League for allegedly breaching financial fair play rules and the club’s hierarchy will be anxious to keep the spotlight focused on the team’s exploits.

Pep Guardiola’s side chase their 10th straight win in all competitions, but fans will be wary as Schalke posed a serious threat in Gelsenkirchen.

Klopp plots compatriots’ downfall

Klopp

Liverpool’s last-16 tie against Bayern Munich hangs in the balance after a goalless draw at Anfield in the first leg. Jurgen Klopp’s side spurned several chances to eke out an advantage and the Germans must start as favourites for the return.

In Champions League history, only 10 of the 31 sides held at home in the first leg of a knockout match have progressed.

Bayern have lost only two of their last 26 home ties in the tournament, but Liverpool excel on the counter-attack and Klopp will relish the challenge in his homeland.

All eyes on Ronaldo

Ronaldo

Juventus, two-time winners and beaten finalists in 2015 and 2017, face an uphill battle against Atletico Madrid in Turin.

The Bianconeri must overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit and will be pinning their hopes on Cristiano Ronaldo, so often the architect of the Spanish club’s downfall during nine years at Real Madrid.

The Portuguese, rested in Juve’s 4-1 weekend win against Udinese, has scored 22 goals in 33 appearances against Atletico and aims to be the catalyst in an Italian fightback.

Barca odds-on to keep treble hopes alive

Lopes kept Barca at bay in the first leg.

Lopes kept Barca at bay in the first leg.

Barcelona are on course for a La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble and barring a major upset will secure a place in the last eight of the tournament for the 11th successive season.

Lyon’s Anthony Lopes produced a goalkeeping masterclass as the first leg in France ended goalless, but Barca have since enjoyed successive cup and league wins over arch-rivals Real Madrid.

And, seven points clear at the top of their domestic table, they appear to be hitting their straps at the business end of the season.

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