A fan wearing a protective mask attends at the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Bournemouth. Photo: Jon Super/AP Photo
A fan wearing a protective mask attends at the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Bournemouth. Photo: Jon Super/AP Photo

Liverpool look for Anfield joy as Champions League hit by coronavirus

By Barry Whelan Time of article published Mar 9, 2020

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BERLIN  Holders Liverpool have a tough challenge to overcome a 1-0 deficit to Atletico Madrid in the return leg of their last 16 tie in the Champions League on Wednesday.

However, this week's games are taking place in the shadow of the coronavirus emergency which sees two matches behind closed doors: Valencia's Tuesday home leg against Italian side Atalanta, and Paris Saint-German v Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.

RB Leipzig discussed Monday with health authorities a possible closed-door game against Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday but it was decided to go ahead with the match as normal.

Liverpool's game at Anfield was also to go ahead as planned pending a meeting between sports governing bodies and government officials.

After losing against a defensively tough Atletico in Madrid, Liverpool will need all the backing of the Kop, which has helped them to so many magical European nights, if they are to progress against Diego Simeone's side.

Manager Juergen Klopp will hope his team can build on a 2-1 win over Bournemouth in the Premier League after a dip in form and is waiting on the fitness of captain Jordan Henderson, who has returned to training following a hamstring injury. Keeper Alisson Becker is still out with a hip injury.

Simeone should have a fully-fit squad and will be out to avoid a repeat of last season's exit when his side surrendered a 2-0 lead by losing the second leg at Juventus 3-0.

Midfielder Marcos Llorente dismissed the idea that Liverpool's first defeat in the Premier League recently would affect them in the second leg.

"That's one tournament and the Champions League is another," he said.

"It will be difficult. It was very tough for us at home and it will not be any easier there. We have to start the game at full power because that is exactly what they will do."

Borussia Dortmund take a slender 2-1 lead to Paris as one of the Bundesliga trio, along with Leipzig and Bayern Munich, trying to reach the quarter-finals.

The Bundesliga has not had three sides in the last eight of the competition since the only previous occasion in 1997-98, but Dortmund will need to be defensively at their best against ex-Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel's side.

PSG have lost only three of their past 54 home games in Europe but the absence of home support in Parc des Princes could work to the advantage of the German visitors.

"We need to believe in ourselves and be 100 per cent present from the beginning," midfielder Emre Can said.

Valencia have to overcome a 4-1 defeat against surprise package Atalanta in an empty Mestalla stadium as the Bergamo side travel to Spain from Lombardy, one of Italy's zones heavily hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Valencia captain Dani Parejo said he could not understand the decision to play without spectators as the city is preparing for its biggest street festival, Las Fallas, when crowds gather in the street to celebrate the arrival of spring with bonfires and fireworks.

"We are able to walk around the streets full of people because of Las Fallas but we can't play our most important game of the season in front of our supporters," he said on social media.

Leipzig are in the driving seat thanks to Timo Werner's penalty for a 1-0 win at Tottenham, who are still missing forwards Harry Kane and Son Heung Min.

But Spurs overcame Ajax in last season's semi-final when in a similar position, and midfielder Dele Alli said: "We've showed the character we have in this squad throughout the years we've been together, and this is a tough period for us in terms of results, but I believe we can turn it around."

The round will be completed next week with the return legs Juventus v Lyon, Manchester City v Real Madrid, Bayern Munich v Chelsea, and Barcelona v Napoli.

dpa

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