Protecting a lead and breaking on the counter is a hallmark of the Rojiblancos’ style under their Argentine boss, but some aren’t impressed
Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen has doubled down on his assessment that his old club deserved to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League ahead of Atletico Madrid, criticising Diego Simeone’s defensive approach after they dumped the Reds out of Europe.
Atleti went into the clash with a 1-0 first-leg advantage, having kept Jurgen Klopp’s charges from breaching their goal in their previous meeting at the Wanda Metropolitano in February.
Saul’s early strike in Madrid marked the start of a slump in form for the Premier League champions elect, who have now lost four times in their last six matches.
Still, Owen believes Liverpool remain the best team in Europe despite their Champions League exit, stating shortly after the match that Atletico’s players will have felt starstruck after doing the double over the reigning champions.
He said on BT Sport: “Madrid players there will sit down in their dressing room and look at each other and say ‘Oh my word, how good were that team that we’ve just beaten there? We’ve never played anything like that’. Liverpool blew them away for 90 minutes.”
Fans on social media were quick to point out that a fair amount of the Rojiblancos’ current squad have faced both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at their peaks in La Liga, while they also got the better of a free-scoring Bayern Munich under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola.
Indeed, setting up to protect a lead and punish teams on the counter is widely considered to be part and parcel of Simeone’s tactical style, the Argentine boss keen to prey on teams’ weaknesses rather than go for an all-out attack approach and leave themselves vulnerable.
Still, Owen took to Twitter on Thursday morning to reiterate his original thoughts, taking aim yet again at Simeone.
He wrote: “Please spare me all this inevitable Simeone masterclass nonsense. There’s nothing genius about putting 11 top-class footballers behind the ball. Liverpool absolutely pumped them throughout.”
Klopp himself couldn’t resist having a dig at Simeone’s tactical set-up, but he must now dust off his Liverpool side ahead of a Merseyside derby date with Everton on Monday.