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Atletico Madrid feel the heat in Liverpool
October 21, 2008 09:31 IST
Three consecutive defeats by direct rivals in the Primera Liga has left Atletico Madrid coach Javier Aguirre under pressure to get a good result against Liverpool at home in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Atletico lost to Sevilla, were embarrassed 6-1 at Barcelona and, most painfully, on Saturday lost 2-1 at the Calderon against city rivals Real Madrid [Images] due to an injury-time penalty.
The side were tipped as title contenders at the start of the campaign but are languishing in eighth place, 10 points behind leaders Valencia after seven games.
Following Saturday's defeat, Aguirre's conservative tactics were questioned as well as his side's chronic lapses in concentration.
Ruud van Nistelrooy's [Images] opener for Real was the second derby in a row where Atletico have conceded in the opening minute, and against Barca they conceded their first after three minutes.
"It's worrying, because we are putting ourselves under pressure in games...and it is costing us dear," said Aguirre.
Atletico top Group D with six points from two games, but even that achievement has lost some of its shine after the crowd trouble that marred their opening home game against Olympique Marseille.
UEFA [Images] punished the club with a two-match stadium ban, ordering them to play at a venue at least 300 km from the Spanish capital, though later lifted it temporarily for the Liverpool game because of the disruption it would cause just days before the encounter.
Atletico have lost Czech Republic defender Tomas Ujfalusi to injury and are likely to field a number of squad players ahead of next weekend's trip to face Villarreal in the league.
Weary Argentina striker Sergio Aguero could start on the bench.
In contrast, Liverpool arrive full of confidence despite the absence of injured striker Fernando Torres, who misses the chance to return to his former home where he is still idolised by the fans.
On Saturday, Liverpool twice trailed at home to Wigan Athletic before winning 3-2 thanks to a late goal from Dutch workhorse Dirk Kuyt who will lead the line on Wednesday.
Kuyt lacks the finesse and speed of Torres but whenever asked to play a more central role he rarely disappoints and he epitomises the spirit that Rafael Benitez has instilled in the team.
"We showed plenty (of spirit) to pull it out of the fire like that. In a way, it showed how far we have come since last season," the 28-year-old said of the Wigan win that left Liverpool joint top with Chelsea after their best start to a Premier League season.
Benitez will have one eye on Sunday's league clash at Chelsea and, with six points already in the bag, could give a starting place to several squad players.
Atletico Madrid: 1-Gregory Coupet; 2-Giourkas Seitaridis, 21-Luis Perea, 5-John Heitinga, 3-Antonio Lopez; 9-Luis Garcia, 8-Raul Garcia, 18-Maniche, 20-Simao Sabrosa; 7-Diego Forlan, 14-Florent Sinama Pongolle
Liverpool: 25-Pepe Reina; 17-Alvaro Arbeloa, 23-Jamie Carragher, 4-Sami Hyypia, 2-Andrea Dossena; 21-Lucas, 14-Xabi Alonso, 8-Steven Gerrard, 11-Albert Riera; 18-Dirk Kuyt, 7-Robbie Keane
Referee: Claus Bo Larsen (Denmark)
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