A resurgent Joao Felix is doing everything that Atletico Madrid are asking of him, according to head coach Diego Simeone.

The Portugal international continued his fine form on Saturday with two goals as LaLiga champions Atleti claimed an emphatic 4-1 win over lowly Deportivo Alaves.

Joao Felix has now been involved in eight goals in his last six games in all competitions (six goals, two assists), which is the same as his 33 games before that (four goals, four assists).

Simeone is thrilled with the 22-year-old's contribution and believes he is on the right path after what has been a far from smooth Atleti career so far, since his big-money switch from Benfica in 2019.

"He continues to grow, he's in a great moment," Simeone told Movistar+. "He's happy. He's fine and he's doing everything we need from him."

Luis Suarez came off the bench to score a late double of his own, the first of which came from the penalty spot, and Simeone said the striker is enjoying his role as one of the team's elder statesmen.

"I am very happy for him," Simeone added. "He is in a moment that he has not lived. He is enjoying the hierarchy, the security.

"Before the game he told Joao Felix to score two goals. It's nice. He wants to compete to win. To win, everyone has to be involved."

There was a moving tribute before the game to Simeone's father, Carlos, who died in March, and the Atleti coach was thankful to the club for putting it on.

"Out of respect I will say that I will never forget it," he said. "And a thank you to the club for having done it."

 

Joao Felix had 52 touches in Saturday's win, more than any other Atleti attacker, while his 20 attempted passes in Alaves' half was the second-most and he led the way, along with Yannick Carrasco, for chances created (three).

"We're working well. The team is very good and when that's the case, individuals stand out," Joao Felix said.

"I go in with the same mentality of winning and scoring. At the beginning, I am fresh and I can do a little more. The desire to win and score is in the first minute or in the last.

"It's a natural process for players. Some start playing, others start on the bench. I have never stopped working."

Atleti, who are up to third in LaLiga, travel to England to face Manchester City in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.

Diego Simeone compared Luis Suarez to Atletico Madrid legend Fernando Torres as he backed the striker to keep performing when called on.

Suarez has been linked with a move away from Atletico at the end of the season, when his contract expires.

British press reports have suggested he could join up with former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard, now manager of Aston Villa, while Spanish sports daily Marca on Saturday pointed to interest from the likes of Ajax, Inter and Sevilla.

Suarez's goals were crucial to Atletico winning LaLiga last season, following his shock move from Barcelona, but his output has decreased in 2021-22, with the Uruguayan scoring 11 goals in 34 appearances across all competitions.

Only 23 of those appearances have been as a starter, with Suarez no longer assured of a place in the Atletico team.

It remains to be seen whether head coach Simeone uses him, and in what capacity, in Sunday's game against Real Betis, a big fixture in the context of qualifying for next season's Champions League.

Betis came into the weekend in third, with Atletico fifth but only one point behind the team they are preparing to visit.

Former Spain and Liverpool star Torres was considered a valuable asset by Simeone, albeit one whose workload he would carefully manage towards the end of his career.

"I've been lucky as a coach," said Simeone in a news conference on Saturday. "I've managed Torres, a world champion and Champions League winner. And he always trained in the same way, whether he was playing or not.

"I'm experiencing the same with Luis. He is always committed, always with the group, always present, and waiting for his moment to continue showing his validity, his goal. We hope that when his time comes, he shows it that way."

Simeone's side are out of the picture for the title this season, and Simeone is focusing on finishing on a high, looking to build for the coming seasons.

Even Antoine Griezmann is not assured of a place in the starting XI at present, but Simeone is reluctant to talk about such players being in the background.

"We don't use the word background," he said. "In each game we look to have those who can compete best to achieve the common goal that we all have."

Mario Hermoso was 10-man Atletico Madrid's hero as the defender scored a dramatic late winner in Saturday's chaotic 4-3 derby win over Getafe.

A manic match looked to be petering out until Hermoso – who attracted much criticism for his performance against Barcelona last week – showed Atletico's character despite being down to 10 men.

An astonishing first half saw Atletico charge into a 2-0 lead through Angel Correa and Matheus Cunha after Luis Suarez's early penalty miss, only for Getafe to turn the game on its head thanks to Borja Mayoral's poacher's effort and a pair of Enes Unal spot-kicks.

Correa made it 3-3 just before the interval, but the hosts suffered another blow in the second half as Felipe was shown a straight red for a wild challenge.

At that point a draw looked a reasonable result for Atletico, but substitute Hermoso popped up late on to spark bedlam at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Xavi hopes Atletico Madrid's Luis Suarez receives a standing ovation from Barcelona's supporters on Sunday, as he ranked the Uruguayan alongside Samuel Eto'o as "the best modern-day Barca centre forward".

Suarez left Barca – in frustrating circumstances for the former Liverpool star and his close friend Lionel Messi – in 2020, with then-coach Ronald Koeman having deemed him surplus to requirements.

Barca's decision backfired as Suarez went on to propel Atleti to their second LaLiga title under Diego Simeone, scoring 21 top-flight goals last season.

The 35-year-old scored 198 goals for Barca between 2014 and 2020, netting once every 120 minutes, and said he was "disrespected" by the club when they decided to ship him out.

Xavi played alongside Suarez in his first season at Camp Nou, and believes the forward must be categorised as a modern-day great at Barca.

"I think he deserves a standing ovation," Xavi said of Suarez in a news conference previewing Sunday's clash with Atleti.

"The best modern-day Barca centre forward, with Eto'o. He has been great. You have to welcome him with honour. 

"The pity is that he couldn't leave with a great tribute because of COVID."

 

Antoine Griezmann could well partner Suarez up top, with the France attacker returning to his parent club. 

Griezmann has played more LaLiga games for Atleti against Barcelona without scoring than any other opponent (11).

Xavi, meanwhile, is facing Atleti for the first time as a coach. As a player, he lost none of his last eight appearances against Los Rojiblancos in the competition (W6 D2).

Barca would move above Atleti should they win, though if Atleti triumph, Diego Simeone will surpass Slovakian Ferdinand Daucik (234) for the most LaLiga victories by a non-Spanish manager in the competition's history.

Asked for his thoughts on Simeone's style of play, Xavi said: "It wouldn't be Barca's style, it wouldn't fit in, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have merit and isn't competitive. 

"People wouldn't understand if we were defensive. They win and it's legal to play like that, but it's not my style. It doesn't mean I don't admire him. Cholo is a great coach, it's not a criticism."

Barca are well adrift of LaLiga leaders Real Madrid, and Xavi understands that his priority is securing Champions League qualification.

"At the moment I want to enter the Champions League and then I don't rule anything out knowing the difficulty," he said. "We are 15 points down with one game in hand. We have to be realists."

Atletico Madrid struck twice in stoppage time to seal a dramatic 3-2 LaLiga win over Valencia at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday.

Diego Simeone's side looked like they were on their way to a third consecutive defeat in all competitions after Yunus Musah and Hugo Duro had put the visitors two goals up at the interval.

Matheus Cunha reduced the deficit in the 64th minute, setting the stage for Angel Correa and Mario Hermoso to secure the most remarkable victory with strikes in added time.

Atleti remained in fourth place, four points behind Real Betis with a game in hand, while Valencia stayed in ninth.

Diego Simeone has confirmed that Luis Suarez will play for Atletico Madrid against Valencia on Saturday, despite a lack of form and apparent recent falling out between the pair.

The Uruguay international is Los Rojiblancos' top scorer in all competitions this season with nine goals, but has only found the net once in his last 11 club matches.

Suarez made his frustration known when he was substituted during last month's 2-1 defeat at Sevilla, appearing to direct expletives towards his manager.

The 34-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked with a Premier League reunion with former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa, but Simeone insisted at a news conference ahead of the weekend's clash at the Wanda Metropolitano that he has spoken to Suarez and intends to play him.

Atletico have been on a poor run of late, winning just one of their last six LaLiga games and being eliminated from both the Supercopa de Espana and Copa del Rey in their last two outings.

"Luis Suarez will play," the Argentine coach confirmed. "I have no doubt that these moments make us stronger, because we have been in difficult moments and very good ones during my ten years at the club [as a coach].

"This moment is something we've never experienced before and it is like life itself, we need to defend ourselves continuously. What you did yesterday doesn't count, it counts what you do today and I love it like this because this is what happens in life itself.

"I've already talked to Luis and with the club. With all the people I've needed to, we've talked already. They know what I think, and I'm [currently] thinking about the match against Valencia.”

 

Suarez has scored 30 goals across all competitions since his arrival at Atletico from Barcelona in September 2020. Karim Benzema (54) and Gerard Moreno (41) are the only players currently based in Spain to have scored more often during that time.

Additionally, only Lionel Messi (231) has more than Suarez's 175 LaLiga goals since the Uruguayan joined Barcelona from Liverpool in July 2014.

Atletico Madrid cruised into the last 16 of the Copa del Rey thanks to a 5-0 rout of Rayo Majadahonda on Thursday.

Diego Simeone fielded a strong starting XI for the game, which was played at the Wanda Metropolitano despite Majadahonda being drawn as the home team, and they never looked like they would suffer an upset after Matheus Cunha's early opener.

Renan Lodi and Luis Suarez then made it three before the interval as the Colchoneros threatened to run riot.

Substitute Griezmann – who later hobbled off with an injury – added a fourth after a fine move, before Joao Felix wrapped up the scoring with a sumptuous finish. 

Atleti's relentless early pressure told after 17 minutes when Matheus Cunha fired home after Yannick Carrasco had blocked an attempted clearance.

Lodi then opened his account for the season nine minutes later, superbly firing into Alvaro Fernandez's top-left corner from 15 yards after being picked out by Thomas Lemar.

Suarez, who had earlier been denied by Fernandez, added a third four minutes before the interval, the Uruguay international slotting home Marcos Llorente's low cross from 12 yards.

Simeone's men started the second half at a sluggish pace, but they added a fourth in the 67th minute when Griezmann slammed the ball into the roof of Fernandez's roof after combining superbly with fellow substitute Angel Correa. 

Joao Felix added further gloss to the scoreline with 11 minutes remaining, cutting in from the left and whipping the ball into the top corner. 


What does it mean? Griezmann injury mars routine win

Given the strength of Simeone's starting XI it was little surprise to see Atleti blow their less illustrious opponents away with consummate ease.

The only blot on their copybook was the injury to Griezmann, who was visibly upset as he walked down the tunnel.

Suarez endures

Suarez's typically composed finish was his first Copa del Rey goal for Atleti and his 20th overall. Since his arrival in Spain ahead of the 2014-15 season, only Lionel Messi (27) has scored more goals in the competition.

Giralt's game cut short

Majadahonda goalkeeper Gorka Giralt was cruelly denied the chance to test himself against some of Spanish football's biggest names after suffering a hand injury inside the first minute. The 26-year-old cut a despondent figure as he walked off the pitch to be replaced by Fernandez.

What's next?

Fourth-placed Atleti return to LaLiga action on Sunday when they visit Villarreal, who sit four places and four points beneath them.

Diego Simeone has scoffed at the suggestion Atletico Madrid's LaLiga title hopes will be over if they lose to Real Madrid in Sunday's derby.

Reigning champions Atletico go into the game trailing their city rivals by 10 points, albeit with a game in hand.

It is a major moment in the season for both clubs, described by Simeone as "very important", and a victory for the hosts at the Santiago Bernabeu would represent a significant step towards the title.

But Simeone, who confirmed striker Luis Suarez will be involved after a midweek injury scare, is not willing to countenance surrender at this stage of the season.

"As always we are quick to say that LaLiga is over," Simeone said. "LaLiga will always be competitive because there are very good teams.

"There is a group of five or six teams in the upper part that are working very well. We are going to go game by game as ever, and we are not going to change that."

This Derbi will be the 169th between Real and Atletico in LaLiga, with the Bernabeu giants having won 89 times and the Rojoblancos picking up 39 victories.

Real have avoided defeat in their past five home LaLiga games against Atletico (W2 D3) and have kept a clean sheet in the most recent three.

They have never had four successive shutouts against Atletico at home, but that is what Carlo Ancelotti will be pushing for in LaLiga's headline game of the weekend.

 

Atletico have not won any of their past seven games against Madrid across all competitions (D4 L3), which ranks as their longest such winless run in the rivalry under Simeone.

However, Ancelotti, back for a second spell as Madrid boss this season, has failed to win in his previous four LaLiga games against Atletico (D1 L3).

"We are going to play a very important game, as it always is against our rival," said Simeone in a Saturday news conference. "They are in a great spell as they have shown since the arrival of Ancelotti, with a defensive strength that enhances all their offensive weapons. We will have to take the game where we think we can hurt them."

If Simeone is looking for a battling presence in his side, he might well summon Suarez to start, despite the former Barcelona striker going off in pain early in the win over Porto on Tuesday.

Suarez looked for all the world as though he had suffered a serious muscle blow, only for medical checks since the game to give him the all clear.

"Tomorrow he will be there, and we will assess whether he starts or comes on later," Simeone said.

Suarez has scored 10 goals in 13 LaLiga appearances against Real Madrid, more than any other player has netted against Los Blancos in the competition since his arrival in Spain seven years ago.

Luis Suarez could still feature for Atletico Madrid in Sunday's crunch derby with Real Madrid after injury fears were eased on Thursday.

The experienced Uruguayan striker hobbled off injured after 13 minutes of the Champions League win over Porto, and he appeared to be in tears at one point on the bench.

Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa and Rodrigo de Paul scored to earn Atletico a 3-1 victory that carried them through to the last-16 stage.

Since Tuesday's game, it has been unclear just how serious Suarez's problem might be, but Atletico have now issued an update that points to positive news.

In a statement released by the club, it was revealed that Suarez underwent tests at the Clinica Universidad de Navarra, and these showed there was no muscle tear.

"The tests have ruled out that the Rojiblanco attacker suffers any tear, so the evolution of his symptoms will determine his availability for the derby on Sunday," Atletico said.

"Luis Suarez will continue to carry out individualised rehabilitation training and daily physical therapy sessions."

Atletico won LaLiga last season but their hopes of a successful title defence could be all but over if they lose at the Santiago Bernabeu this weekend.

They head into the game sitting 10 points behind Madrid, albeit with a game in hand, having played 15 matches so far.

 

Suarez was acquired from Barcelona in September 2020 and proved a decisive signing when his goals helped power Atletico to last season's title, scoring 21 goals in 32 LaLiga games for Diego Simeone's side at a rate of one every 119.95 minutes.

He remains a key figure when fit, although the arrival of Antoine Griezmann, also from Barcelona, means Atletico have more firepower in their ranks now.

This term, the 34-year-old has managed seven goals in 15 league games, including 10 starts, with those strikes coming at one every 129.29 minutes.

His shot conversion rate has climbed from 20.19 per cent in 2020-21 to 29.17 per cent this term, a further reason why Atletico would want to have Suarez as an option for the trip to their capital city rivals.

Milan host Liverpool knowing they need a win to keep their Champions League hopes alive in one of the headline fixtures on Tuesday.

Real Madrid and Inter meet in a battle for top spot in Group D, with both already qualified as the Italian side travel to Spain with a woeful recent record.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are already through in Group A as well, with Lionel Messi aiming to follow in the footsteps of George Weah and Neymar at home to Club Brugge.

Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data behind the next set of matches.

Milan v Liverpool: Reds eye English record

Milan are searching for their first win against an English side in Europe since February 2012, while the Rossoneri have recorded victory in just one of their past nine home games in the Champions League group stage.

In contrast, Liverpool have triumphed in all five of their opening games this season as they look to become the first English side to win all six of their group-stage matches in a single campaign.

The Reds are also aiming to record victories in six consecutive games in the European Cup/Champions League for the first time in their history, with Alisson on the hunt for three consecutive clean sheets in the continental competition for his first time.

Paris Saint-Germain v Club Brugge: Mbappe and Messi await leaky defence

Club Brugge were defeated by five goals in their last clash against RB Leipzig, the third consecutive group game in which they conceded at least four times.

No team has ever gone four straight games letting in at least four, but the Belgians will have to negotiate with Messi, who could become just the third player – after Weah in 1994 and Neymar in 2017 – to score in his first three consecutive home games for PSG in the competition.

The visitors will also have to contend with Kylian Mbappe, the France international managing five goal involvements in three matches against Brugge – his joint-most against a single opponent in the competition, along with Red Star and Istanbul Basaksehir.

RB Leipzig v Manchester City: Guardiola's men out to defend German record

City are unbeaten in their previous 14 games against German opposition, including a six-game undefeated streak on the road, in a run that stretches back to November 2014 in the Champions League.

The reigning Premier League champions have won their past nine such fixtures, scoring 28 goals and conceding just nine in return, while Leipzig are winless in their most recent three meetings with English sides.

If Leipzig fail to defeat Pep Guardiola's side, it will be the first time they have not registered a single home win during the group stages in Europe.

Real Madrid v Inter: Los Blancos looking for goalscoring milestone 

Inter have claimed just one win in their past 11 meetings with Spanish opposition in European competition and their last away win against such sides came all the way back in October 2004.

The Serie A outfit have not beaten Madrid in Europe since March 1967 as Carlo Ancelotti's side look to score their 1,000th goal in the European Cup/Champions League in just their 455th game.

Karim Benzema could be central to Madrid hitting that milestone if he is passed fit, the forward already with five group-stage goals to his name this term as he sits two behind Raul in the club charts in the competition (66).

 

Other fixtures:

Ajax v Sporting CP:

16 - Ajax have scored 16 goals in their five games in the Champions League this season, with only Bayern Munich (19) and Manchester City (17) finding the net more.

15 - The previous three meetings between Ajax and Sporting have seen a total of 15 goals scored, at an average of five goals per game. Indeed, neither side has managed to keep a clean sheet in any of their three clashes to date.

Borussia Dortmund v Besiktas:

60 - Jude Bellingham has had a direct hand in 60 per cent of Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League goals this season (one scored, two assisted), with the last Englishman to enjoy more than three goal involvements during the group stages of a season before the age of 19 being Jack Wilshere in 2010-11 for Arsenal (one scored, three assisted).

5 - Besiktas remain the only Champions League side in 2021-22 to lose all five of their matches and are looking to avoid being the first team since AEK Athens in 2018-19 to lose each of their six group games.

Porto v Atletico Madrid:

5 - Porto will be aiming to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League for a fifth time in their past five tournament appearances (2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2020-21). The last time they failed to do so was in 2015-16 under Julen Lopetegui.

786 - Luis Suarez's only goal in 11 appearances for Atletico Madrid in the Champions League was a penalty against Milan in September, giving him a minutes-per-goal ratio of 786. At previous club Barcelona, the Uruguay striker scored 25 goals in 55 appearances, with a minutes-per-goal ratio of 192.

Shakhtar Donetsk v Sheriff: 

1 - Shakhtar Donetsk have only won one of their past 11 home games in the Champions League (D5 L5), while they have failed to score in seven of the games in this run, including both in 2021-22 (D1 L1).

25 – Sheriff's 2-0 victory over Shakhtar in this season's tournament came despite the Moldovan side having just 25 per cent possession – since 2003-04, only Atletico (23) versus Barcelona in April 2016 have won a Champions League game by multiple goals with a lower possession percentage.

Hugo Duro scored twice in second-half stoppage time as Atletico Madrid threw away a two-goal lead in a remarkable 3-3 draw away to Valencia on Sunday.

Atletico looked to be well on track to bouncing back from a disappointing midweek defeat to Liverpool but Valencia showed commendable spirit to peg them back right at the end.

The visitors had dominated the first half and led through Luis Suarez's sublime goal, only for Valencia to improve after the break and level through Stefan Savic's own goal.

A quick-fire double from Atletico, courtesy of Antoine Griezmann and Sime Vrsaljko, looked as though it would be enough for the champions, only for Valencia substitute Duro to clinch a late brace that incredibly rescued a point.

Atletico Madrid are hoping to recover from losing to Liverpool on matchday three with a repeat of their Anfield heroics last March.

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City will look to take bigger steps towards the last 16, while Real Madrid will go in search of another big win against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Inter can put themselves in a good position to progress, too, although city rivals Milan have got much more of a fight on their hands.

Here are some of the key Opta facts for Wednesday's Champions League matches...

 

Liverpool v Atletico Madrid: Can Suarez improve rotten recent record?

Atletico were winners at Anfield on their last visit as they claimed a 3-2 victory in the last-16 second leg in March 2020. Indeed, Liverpool have only twice beaten Spanish teams at home in 13 attempts in the European Cup and Champions League.

That said, the Marcos Llorente-inspired game last year was one of only two out of 22 at home that Jurgen Klopp has lost in this competition as Reds manager, while Diego Simeone is chasing what would only be the second instance of a third successive away win in the tournament with Atleti.

Luis Suarez will hope to haunt his old side, although recent history is against him: he's only scored one for Atleti in nine Champions League games, and none from open play. Mohamed Salah, meanwhile, needs one more goal to equal Steven Gerrard as Liverpool's top scorer in the competition at Anfield (14).

Manchester City v Club Brugge: Bad omens for Belgian champions

City's 5-1 triumph in Bruges on matchday three took their tally to six wins in seven European games against Belgian opposition, while Brugge are now without a victory over English teams in 13 attempts dating back to February 1995.

Since Pep Guardiola took charge, City have won 80 per cent (20 out of 25) of home Champions League matches, which is the best record for a coach at a single club in the competition among those to take charge of 20 or more. A first win on English soil for Brugge looks unlikely.

Might this be a chance for Raheem Sterling to impress? The England forward has been directly involved in 24 goals in 27 home Champions League games for City, a tally surpassed only by Sergio Aguero (27).

 

RB Leipzig v Paris Saint-Germain: Nkunku could outshine Messi

PSG have only lost one of their past nine away games in the group stage, but that defeat was against RB Leipzig last season. It was the only time in the previous seven meetings with French sides that Leipzig emerged victorious.

He might be enduring a difficult time in Ligue 1, but Lionel Messi has managed three goals in three games in Europe for PSG. His double in the reverse fixture was his 34th in the competition, something only Cristiano Ronaldo (37) can better.

However, perhaps the most in-form player in 2021-22 is Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku, who has been involved in the most open-play sequences ending in a goal (six) among Champions League midfielders this season. And he has four goals of his own from the first three matches.

Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk: Another big win on the cards with Benzema

Madrid's 5-0 win over Shakhtar on matchday three means the past five meetings between these teams have seen an average of 4.6 goals scored per game. In fact, Los Blancos have scored 15 times in five Champions League matches against Shakhtar: that average of three per game is their best figure against a side they have faced on at least five occasions, apart from Galatasaray (3.4 per game).

Shakhtar are one of just three sides yet to score in this season's group stage, but with Madrid having lost three of their previous eight home games in the competition, this could be a good opportunity.

They will need to stop Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior, though: they are the two players with the most involvements in shot-ending sequences in 2021-22 (31 and 34, respectively). Plus, Benzema is on a run of 10 goals in 10 home games in the competition.

 

Sheriff v Inter: Nothing shot-shy about Inzaghi's men

Inter ended Sheriff's 11-game unbeaten run in Europe last time out and will now look to secure consecutive Champions League victories for the first time since October 2018.

The Nerazzurri have lost just once in their previous five Champions League away matches, but Sheriff are unbeaten in their most recent five European games on home soil, excluding qualifiers. They've also won the past two.

Inter certainly have the variety to break down Sheriff's stubborn defence. Each of their previous 17 away goals in the competition have come from open play, while their 29 shots in the meeting on matchday three were the most by an Italian side in a Champions League game since at least 2003-04.

Other fixtures:

Borussia Dortmund v Ajax

45 – Ajax's 4-0 win over Dortmund last time out was the biggest victory by a Dutch side over a German team in Europe since November 1976, when Feyenoord defeated Kaiserslautern 5-0 in the UEFA Cup.

8 – Sebastien Haller has been directly involved in more Champions League goals this season than any other player (eight – six goals, two assists). Among debutants in the competition since 2003-04, this is the highest such figure over a player's first four appearances and one more than Erling Haaland managed.

Milan v Porto

3 – Milan are one of just four sides this season to have lost all three group games. They are on a five-game losing run in the competition, the worst such streak in their history.

1 – Since scoring four for Chelsea against Sevilla in December 2020, Olivier Giroud has scored only once in 250 minutes of play in the Champions League.

Sporting CP v Besiktas

5 – Paulinho has been directly involved in three of Sporting's five goals (two scored, one assisted) in this season's Champions League. Their last player to manage more goals and assists combined in a single season was Nani in 2014-15 (six).

10 – Michy Batshuayi has attempted 10 shots for Besiktas in the Champions League in 2021-22 without scoring. Over the first three matchdays, only Inter's Lautaro Martinez (12) had more shots without finding the net.

Luis Suarez has appeared 67 times at Anfield. On Wednesday, with Atletico Madrid, that will become 68. The former Liverpool favourite will hope this is nothing like his last visit.

Anfield outing #67 – Suarez's first not in Liverpool colours – saw the striker's Barcelona side sensationally beaten 4-0 in 2019, crashing out of the Champions League despite a 3-0 home win in the first leg of their semi-final.

Suarez, who had passionately celebrated his Camp Nou goal, was jeered with each of his 31 touches on Merseyside, starting from the very first second when he took the kick-off.

The Uruguay great later described himself as "so sad" to get such a reaction, but he will surely again this week be greeted with a hostile reception entirely out of keeping with the adoration afforded Liverpool's latest leading man, Mohamed Salah.

Salah was in the stands when Suarez returned back in 2019, missing a Champions League match for the only time in his Liverpool career to date due to concussion. Divock Origi was the hero instead.

 

Since then, though, the 'Egyptian King' has firmly laid to rest any claim Suarez had to being the Reds' greatest modern forward.

According to Jurgen Klopp and several others, Salah is now the best player in the world – and Liverpool supporters will revel seeing him prove it against Suarez's Atletico.

Two standout seasons

There were several similarities between the 2013-14 season of Suarez and Salah's 2017-18 campaign, as each inspired Liverpool to the cusp of history.

On both occasions, the individual errors of team-mates – Steven Gerrard against Chelsea in the Premier League, Loris Karius versus Real Madrid in the Champions League – left the superstar forwards agonisingly short of the finish line.

Suarez had scored an outstanding 31 goals that year – all in the Premier League, matching the 38-game benchmark that belonged jointly to Alan Shearer (1995-96) and Cristiano Ronaldo (2007-08).

Like so many standards Suarez set, though, Salah reached and then surpassed that mark four years later.

Salah had 30 goals by Valentine's Day, becoming the first Liverpool player to tally as many in a season since Suarez, but then kicked on from there.

His four goals in a single game against Watford the following month again made him the first Reds star to celebrate such a haul this side of Suarez (versus Norwich City in December 2013).

Salah finished with a new record 32 league goals among an astonishing 43 in all competitions, joining Suarez in scooping the PFA Player of the Year award – the sixth and seventh Liverpool players to be recognised.

Crucially, too, whereas the 2013-14 season was Suarez's last at Anfield, 2017-18 was merely the first of many for Salah, who has moved well clear of his fellow Kop icon as a result.

Salah on track again

While Salah has not come close to that 43-goal total again – at least until now – he has maintained a high level throughout his Liverpool career.

Only in 2019-20 did the forward fail to net 20 times in the Premier League, and Klopp's men won the title that year.

But Salah's current form is hinting at the sort of season that would blow away his own previous performance, let alone Suarez's.

Going into the game against Atleti, Salah has 15 goals and six assists in just 13 appearances this season.

His run of scoring in 10 straight games in all competitions – a feat never previously achieved by a Liverpool player – ended in Saturday's draw with Brighton and Hove Albion, but the Egypt international still provided an assist for Jordan Henderson. This sequence of goal involvements in 11 matches in a row is the best of Salah's Reds career.

By comparison, Suarez never scored in more than five successive appearances – also his best run of goals and assists.

 

Salah has never been better and enters the Atleti match one shy of Gerrard's record of 14 home goals in the European Cup. Due to the timing of his departure for Barca, Suarez never even played a Champions League game for Liverpool, although he did win the competition in his first season at Camp Nou.

Whether on Wednesday or later in the season, that Anfield honour will surely soon belong to Salah, but it is not yet out of the question that he could follow Suarez in leaving Liverpool before the club might hope.

There are now less than two years to run on Salah's Reds contract and, as Europe's premier performer, he is in complete control of his destiny.

An ear towards the Liverpool fans when Suarez gets the ball this week might inform Salah of the worth of staying put, though. There are undoubtedly more records still to break, too.

Atletico Madrid ended a three-game winless run in all competitions with a 3-0 victory over Real Betis at a rain-soaked Wanda Metropolitano.

Yannick Carrasco's superb first-half finish and an own goal from German Pezzella in the second put the champions in control against Manuel Pellegrini's side.

Joao Felix came off the bench to drill home a third as Atleti delivered their best league performance since the 2-0 win over Barcelona at the start of the month.

Betis rarely offered a threat to Jan Oblak's goal as they endured an eighth defeat in nine away league games against Atletico, a run in which they have failed to score in any of the past six games.

William Carvalho had a shot parried by Oblak in the first minute of a match that started in frenetic fashion, Betis looking to capitalise on a defence that had conceded at least twice in each of Atleti's previous three games.

Jose Gimenez and Antoine Griezmann each came close before Carrasco broke the deadlock in stunning style, taking Angel Correa's pass, turning away from Martin Montoya and blasting high past Claudio Bravo at his near post.

Luis Suarez headed wide when unmarked and Mario Hermoso saw the flag rule out a second when he nodded in Antoine Griezmann's delivery, as Atletico continued to push forward.

A fine passing move saw Griezmann pick out Suarez, but Bravo thwarted the striker again. However, from the resulting Griezmann corner, Pezzella mistimed his header and nodded the ball firmly into his own net.

Substitute Felix completed the scoring with a well-taken left-footed finish driven beneath Bravo, a VAR check showing he had timed his run to meet Carrasco's throughball perfectly.


What does it mean? Champions up into fourth

Atleti's win lifted them above Betis in the table and to within two points of leaders Real Madrid, second-placed Sevilla and Real Sociedad in third. Sociedad had a game to come later on Sunday, however.

It will also give them some confidence ahead of a Champions League visit to Liverpool in the coming week, particularly after the Reds surrendered a two-goal lead to draw with Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Bravo keeps scores respectable

Atleti should really have been out of sight before Pezzella's unfortunate own goal, with Bravo making seven saves as Suarez in particular was profligate with his chances.

The former Barcelona keeper has never before made as many saves in a single LaLiga match.

Suarez needs sharpness

Suarez missed two big chances and had the highest expected goals figure (0.48) of any of Atletico's attacking players during his 71 minutes on the pitch.

The Uruguay striker will need to be more ruthless against his old club if Atletico are to leave Merseyside with a positive result.

What's next?

Atleti face Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday before heading to Valencia on November 7 for their final game before the next international break.

Enis Bardhi scored a controversial late penalty for Levante to salvage a dramatic 2-2 draw against Atletico Madrid in a frenetic finish that saw Diego Simeone sent off.

In his seventh outing since signing from Hertha Berlin in a reported €30million deal in August, Matheus Cunha appeared to have netted the winner with 14 minutes remaining at Estadio Ciutat de Valencia.

However, as Simeone watched from the stands after being shown a second yellow card for dissent, Renan Lodi was deemed to have handled the ball in the box when referee Pablo Gonzalez Fuertes reviewed footage on the pitchside monitor.

Bardhi, who cancelled out Antoine Griezmann's opener in the first half, drilled in a second penalty of the game in the 90th minute to deny the reigning LaLiga champions the full three points.

Griezmann had put Atleti ahead inside 12 minutes with his first LaLiga goal since returning to the club from Barcelona, following up his cross and nodding home Felipe's header back into the middle.

Levante responded well to going behind and drew level in the 37th minute when Bardhi slammed home a penalty after Luis Suarez miscontrolled the ball in the box and fouled Ruben Vezo.

Atleti finally regained their lead when substitute Rodrigo de Paul drove forward and released Cunha – who only replaced Griezmann four minutes prior – to slot beneath Aitor Fernandez.

Simeone remained heated and was shown a second yellow card for remonstrating at the fourth official, with Atleti unable to hold on for the victory.

A harsh handball decision against Lodi resulted in a penalty that Bardhi confidently dispatched low into the left corner to send the home fans into raptures, though Rober Pier received a second yellow card after the final whistle for complaining to the referee.


What does it mean? 

Atletico have struggled at Estadio Ciutat de Valencia under Simeone – prior to kick-off, the only LaLiga grounds where they had a higher losing percentage were Camp Nou and the Reale Arena.

Although they now haven't lost on any of their past five top-flight trips to Levante, they will have been hoping for more than a draw against the leakiest defence in the competition this season.

Failing to see out the victory means they are five points adrift of LaLiga leaders Real Sociedad, who were 2-0 winners at Celta Vigo earlier in the day – Atleti do have a game in hand, though.

Brilliant Bardhi

Bardhi is a set-piece specialist, but his two penalties were his first goals from the spot for Levante. He also created three chances for team-mates in a thoroughly impressive outing. 

Atleti's toothless trident

Griezmann may have got on the scoresheet, but his link-up with Suarez and Joao Felix was nowhere near as exciting as it promised to be. Griezmann and Suarez did not share a single pass, while Joao Felix and the France star only exchanged the ball four times.

Key Opta facts

- Levante have conceded five goals in the first 15 minutes of their games in LaLiga this season, the same number as Valencia have shipped in the opening quarter of an hour. No other side have conceded more in this period.
- Eight of 22 goals scored by Bardhi with Levante in LaLiga have come from set-pieces, but here he scored his first two goals from the penalty spot in the competition. The other six came from direct free-kicks.
- Levante have had the most penalties awarded in their favour in LaLiga this season (5). Before their double success against Atletico, they had failed to convert four of their previous six spot-kicks in the competition.
- Joao Felix is on a streak of 940 minutes (spanning 19 games) without scoring for Atletico in all competitions, his worst streak with Rojiblancos. His last goal was against Villarreal in LaLiga on February 28, 2021.
- Cunha scored his first goal in LaLiga with his first shot on goal in the competition after seven games and 115 minutes played with the Rojiblancos in the competition.
- Levante have played three games without losing against Atletico in LaLiga (W1 D2), their best streak without defeat in their history against the capital club.
- Levante are undefeated in six of their last seven games against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid (W2 D4).

What's next?

Atleti have an important meeting with fourth-placed Real Betis to look forward to on Sunday, while Levante are at home to Granada on Monday.

Page 1 of 7
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.