The sad game at the Mestalla, where passion was suppressed in the silence of an empty stadium, ended catastrophically for Valencia, who were fairly eliminated by Atalanta (a disappointment for the city, though, that pales in comparison to the tough and inevitable decision to suspend their beloved Fallas festival).
We have been left without Valencia in the Champions League, but on the other hand we have been introduced to a great team in Atalanta, which has garnered the admiration and respect of many fans around Europe following their Champions League exploits.
They are a team that are always looking to score and were able to put eight passed Valencia over the two legs. Their four goals at Mestalla on Wednesday night all came from the boot of Slovenian forward Josip Iličić, a genuine phenomenon that was overlooked by the greats.
Liverpool vs Atlético
What Atlético will find at Anfield tonight will be something incredibly different to the awkward silence at Mestalla. When they walk down the steps that lead onto the pitch, they will see the famous sign designed to intimidate: “This is Anfield”.
This is, indeed, Anfield and its Kop, the famous stand whose name is derived from a hilltop that was the setting of the Battle of Spion Kop in South Africa in 1900. Located behind the goal, it is usually where the first chants begin of the club’s mystical-inducing anthem; and where continuous vocal support lifts the stadium and the team. It's hard to imagine a game in Liverpool behind closed doors like the one we saw last night at Mestalla.
That is what Atlético must face, but they do so with the cushion of a 1-0 lead from the first leg, which, on 60% percent of occasions, is enough to qualify – a stat that gives Diego Simeone’s side reasons to have faith.
Faith can also be drawn from what has happened to Liverpool of late, who arrived at the Wanda Metropolitano few weeks ago as a child-swallowing ogre but left quite diminished. As used to be said about boxers who suffered a knock-out after a long undefeated streak, they have “learned to fall.” In addition they are missing their starting goalkeeper, the phenomenon that is Alisson.
While Liverpool undoubtedly remain a formidable force, Altéti have more than a chance and they know it.