Neither of these teams wanted to end up in the Europa League this season but they both need to win it to rescue disastrous campaigns. Quite frankly we fancy Athletico’s chances more.

More travel sickness?

I have to hold my hands up and admit that I called Liverpool’s game with West Ham badly wrong when I said that without Torres the Reds would be held to a draw. Instead they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.

But against Athletico Rafa Benitez’s team will face a much more able strikeforce  which, even without the suspended of £30m rated Chelsea target Sergio Aguero, includes ex-Man United striker Diego Forlan (17 La Liga goals this season), former Arsenal forward Jose Antonio Reyes and Portuguese playmaker Simao.

Athletico have badly under-performed this season though, crashing out of the Champions League without winning a game and losing more domestic league games than they have won, including defeats in their last three La Liga matches.

However Los Rojiblancos know they must raise their game against Liverpool, as they did in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Chelsea at the Vincente Calderon last November, where they showed the quality which has seen them qualify for the Champions League in the last two seasons.

As Aguero is suspended for the first leg and Torres is out for the rest of the season both teams will be without their leading marksmen in Europe.

But the key determinant in this first leg could be Liverpool’s long journey, which we still think was a big factor in Barcelona’s second half capitulation to Inter Milan this week.

The Reds took around 24 hours to get to Madrid via three different trains, a 4:30 am wake up call on Wednesday and one flight from Bordeaux, having played West Ham on Monday night.

Meanwhile since their 2-1 defeat at Villareal on Saturday Athletico have had two extra days rest, which must give them a huge advantage.

Liverpool have lost the away legs in both of their Europa League ties so far and will have trouble dealing with Athletico’s attacking talents.

We think the travel-weary Reds will not have the firepower to match.

Best bet: Athletico 2.38 @ Stan James

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