- Jurgen Klopp’s side need another miracle against Real Madrid on Wednesday
- The Red boss says his players have to create their own atmosphere for the game
- Klopp also says he is more interested in Liverpool’s performance than the result
- Andy Robertson says they will try to prove those who wrote Liverpool off wrong
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side need another miracle in their Champions League tie with Real
Klopp says his players have to create their own atmosphere with no fans present at Anfield
The Liverpool boss also says he is more interested in Liverpool’s performance than the result
Left back Andy Robertson says they will try to prove those who wrote Liverpool off wrong
It is in these moments that all the great occasions are remembered: Saint-Etienne, Auxerre, Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona — the nights when Anfield witnessed footballing miracles.
Those games, with the colour and drama and goals, are what Liverpool in Europe have come to symbolise, so it is inevitable there is expectation that a similar scenario will unfold this evening when Real Madrid arrive in town.
Judging by the reserved demeanour of Jurgen Klopp and Andrew Robertson, though, you sense if another act of escapology is conjured it might be regarded as Liverpool’s greatest comeback yet.
There was no sense on Tuesday that a Red storm is coming; just cold, hard realism.
‘You cannot take it for granted,’ said Klopp when asked about Liverpool’s reputation for being Europe’s comeback kings. ‘You never could and never should. You don’t get a comeback because you had one in the past. You only have a chance if you play really good football in the present.
‘That’s what we have to do. The best situation would be that you didn’t need a comeback. That’s not worth talking about now. The situation is clear, that’s why this competition is so interesting. The way goals count different, so it makes it really exciting.
By Chris Sutton
BEWARE THE LONG BALL
It was two such passes over the top from Toni Kroos in midfield that gave Real Madrid a cushy 2-0 lead after 36 minutes of the first leg, so always be aware of that danger. Zinedine Zidane’s plan to target the space behind Liverpool’s full backs worked a treat last week, and he knows Jurgen Klopp’s side have to go on the attack on Wednesday. He’ll be challenging Kroos to play more of those long balls at Anfield.
Last week’s first half was as poor a 45 minutes as I’ve seen from Liverpool, up there with what we witnessed in the 7-2 hammering at Aston Villa. Klopp’s players couldn’t string three passes together. They were giving Real gifts. There can be none of that on Wednesday. Liverpool scored inside the opening 10 minutes in that 2019 comeback against Barcelona. Klopp could do worse than use that as motivation in his pre-match team talk. Get the boys up for it. Go get that early goal. Make Real sweat.
PICK RED ARROWS
Start Diogo Jota, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. Swarm on Real’s defensive pairing of Eder Militao and Nacho — and do not waste the chances that come your way.
Salah will be the forward Zidane fears the most. Despite Liverpool’s largely disappointing season, he’s on 28 goals in all competitions, five more than he managed last campaign. It is not impossible for Liverpool to win 2-0 on Wednesday. They need to clear their minds of their issues at home and remember what a fortress Anfield can be.
Their supporters aren’t there, but so many are cheering them on from home.
‘What I really mean is that we cannot just expect, especially not without a crowd in the stadium. We have to create our own atmosphere. We will not do that by constantly telling the boys whatever kind of stories. We have a full day to prepare us from an atmosphere point of view.’
There is more to it, however, than just being without the noise and energy a full Anfield brings. Liverpool were given a reality check in Madrid last week. Their no-show in the opening 45 minutes was sobering and Zinedine Zidane’s side inflicted maximum damage.
If there was a feeling that Real, the kings of this competition, had been underestimated, they will not be now, following up their 3-1 win in the first leg by beating Barcelona in Saturday’s Clasico shows the level at which they are operating.
Madrid are masters at managing these occasions. Equally, Liverpool are not heading into the fixture with a momentum that makes you believe they can overcome a two-goal deficit. Klopp, in comparison to his mood the night before Barcelona arrived in 2019, was far more ambivalent.
‘I understand we speak now about the result, but for me it is about the performance,’ Klopp stressed. ‘We have to play like ourselves, we have to play as good as we can and try to win that game. Then we will see where the result leads us.
‘Winning 1-0 means whenever we score that goal we have however many minutes to score the second one. But with the quality Madrid have, you have to defend at your absolutely highest level, which we didn’t do the other night, and that is why this is as important as other things.
‘It is about winning games and that is always the target. If that will end up in a comeback, I have no idea, but I never had (that idea) before.
‘We have to bring ourselves in a mood and we start believing in that again. If we can see it is possible, then we have a chance, but it is still incredibly difficult.’
Each time you felt he would puff out his chest, there was always a caveat.
And indeed, for every Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund — Klopp’s first great comeback at Liverpool, which happened five years ago on Wednesday — there are the games when the escape failed to materialise.
An older generation of fans will remember how Genoa, in the 1992 UEFA Cup, and Spartak Moscow, in the following season’s Cup- Winners’ Cup, were expected to be cannon-fodder but ended up silencing the stadium with displays of ruthlessness and professionalism.
This squad, meanwhile, need only to reflect on how Atletico Madrid were too streetwise in the last 16 last year, skilfully and sneakily protecting the advantage they brought to Liverpool.
Of course, Klopp’s men will give it their all — it could never be any other way — but it might not be enough.
Left back Robertson said: ‘People have maybe written us off but it is up to us to try to change that. We’ll try to be as positive as we can and put in a performance that can cause problems. We need as close to a perfect performance as we can. If we do that then I believe it gives us a chance.’