UCL Preview: Atletico aims to finish job at Liverpool, PSG under pressure in Dortmund clash

Atletico Madrid travels to Liverpool holding a 1-0 advantage in the Champions League, while PSG welcomes Borussia Dortmund trailing 1-2 on aggregate.

Jurgen Klopp (L) thinks the home fans will give Liverpool the edge over Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid.   -  Getty Images

Atletico Madrid may have to fight to the end to finish in La Liga's top four but the success of its season will depend on holding on against Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday.

At the end of a breathless 2-2 draw with Sevilla on Saturday, Atletico sat fifth in the table, behind both its opponent and Getafe, with Real Sociedad able to overtake the Madrid-based side too if it wins its game in hand on Tuesday.

It means the possibility of Atletico missing out on Champions League qualification for the first time in seven years is very real and will come into even sharper focus next weekend should it slip up at a resurgent Athletic Bilbao.

By then, Diego Simeone's side will either be lamenting a second consecutive exit in Europe before the quarterfinals or flying high, after pulling off a momentous upset by knocking out the reigning champion at Anfield. Few gave Atletico even an outside chance ahead of its throwback display at the Wanda Metropolitano last month, when guts, determination and diligence gave it a shock 1-0 lead to preserve in the second leg.

WATCH | Champions League: Playing at Anfield with no fans would be unfair on Liverpool - Simeone

And while after the match Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp bristled over Atletico's approach and Andy Robertson complained about the extent of its celebrations, the sense was still of an aberration, a momentary error that Liverpool would soon correct on its own patch.

For Atletico, the challenge is to prove the doubters wrong again, not least because that is the scenario it revels in most. Liverpool might be encouraged by its opponent's continuing problems since, with a win and two draws -- one of them against La Liga's bottom club Espanyol -- hardly pointing to a team inspired to leave mediocrity behind.

Yet Liverpool has been suddenly wobbling too. On the other hand, while its demolition of the Premier League makes the Champions League something of a bonus, Atletico's failure in La Liga means progress in Europe is its remaining hope.

- PRESSURE MOUNTS ON PSG AS IT HOPES TO KEEP HOLD OF MBAPPE, NEYMAR -

Nothing ever seems to go to plan in the Champions League for Paris Saint-Germain, whose bid to avoid yet another exit in the first knockout round against Borussia Dortmund will be played out before an empty stadium on Wednesday.

After Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and co. lost 2-1 to an Erling Haaland-inspired Dortmund before a crowd of 80,000 in Germany last month, PSG discovered on Monday the second leg of its last-16 tie must be played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak.

READ | Mbappe included in PSG squad to face Borussia Dortmund

Estimates put the financial hit to Qatar-owned PSG of playing the game without the presence of nearly 50,000 fans at the Parc des Princes in the region of six million euros ($6.9 million), while the president of the club's Ultras fans group has called on supporters to gather outside the stadium instead.

However, it is still possible the strange atmosphere will work in the home team's favour, removing some of the immense pressure on them. Agitated supporters are restless at the thought of their team -- despite all the Qatari investment -- going out of the Champions League in the last 16 for the fourth year running.

Following the first-leg defeat, one banner targeted captain Thiago Silva and their two superstar forwards, asking: "Silva, Mbappe, Neymar, afraid of winning? Show some balls." While PSG's record in France, where it is on course for a seventh Ligue 1 title in eight seasons, is excellent, it is also almost irrelevant. This is a club that begs to be judged on its performance in Europe.

It is the fifth-richest club in the world in the most recent Deloitte Football Money League, with 636 million euros in revenue last season, behind only Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich. However, it has fallen at this hurdle in each of the last three seasons, often in farcical fashion.

In 2017 there was the capitulation in Barcelona, a 6-1 defeat following a 4-0 first-leg win. It then spent over 400 million euros to make Neymar and Mbappe the two most expensive signings in the world, but the Brazilian missed the second leg of the 2018 defeat by Madrid due to injury and then sat out both legs of an improbable exit to Manchester United last year.

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