Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said his team were ready for one of football’s most difficult challenges as they prepare to visit Atletico Madrid in Tuesday’s (Feb 18) Champions League last 16 first leg.
The European champions are runaway leaders in the Premier League and favourites to progress against Diego Simeone’s Atletico side, who have been erratic in La Liga and could well miss out on qualification for next season’s competition.
Klopp, however, lauded Atleti and said his side will need to be at their best if they are to come away with a result.
“This is one of the most difficult fixtures in the life of a football player,” Klopp told a news conference.
“They are a really well organised, well oiled machine who are amazing at squeezing results. They are in a transition period, that’s normal, but they are fighting with all they have. It’s really difficult.
“They’re a results machine. They have speed, aggression and a clear philosophy. I know we are in the country of tiki-taka, but I admire things like that. For me, it’s all fine.
“If there’s one team where you have to be at your absolute best, it’s against Atletico. They give you absolutely no presents. If you work as hard as possible, you have a chance. If you don’t do that, you have no chance. There’s a reason they were in so many European finals.”
Apart from Swiss forward Xherdan Shaqiri, Klopp has a full squad to choose from ahead of the showdown at the Wanda Metropolitano where Liverpool lifted the trophy in June.
Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold hailed the impact of goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who missed the first eight games of the season with a calf injury.
Since returning, the Brazilian has conceded six goals in 17 Premier League appearances, including just one in his last 10.
“We’ve run out of words for him,” Alexander-Arnold said. “He’s an unbelievable keeper to have behind you and you can’t take him for granted.
“He’s a world-class keeper, probably the best in the world. Really grateful to him. From his return from injury, he keeps clean sheets and makes it look easy.”