After a frustrating 1 – 1 draw against Arsenal this past weekend at the Emirates Stadium, Liverpool find themselves in third place on the Premier League table, with Chelsea going top after their 3 – 1 win over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge. But there’s no time for the Reds to lament about missed opportunities and failed chances as the UEFA Champions League is back on Tuesday night.
The Reds flew to Belgrade, Serbia via John Lennon airport on Monday afternoon. Shortly after arriving in Belgrade with his staff and players*, Jürgen Klopp, who was joined by Andy Robertson, spoke with the media about Tuesday night’s group stage match (match day 4 of 6) which takes place at 17H55PM GMT/12H55PM EDT during a press conference held inside the Rajko Mitic Stadium.
Red Star Belgrade were beaten 4 – 0 by a rampant Liverpool side two weeks ago at Anfield and the result saw the Reds move back up to the top of their group above Napoli and Paris St-Germain who played to a 2 – 2 draw at the Parc des Princes in Paris, France on 24 October 2018. The two sides will face off at Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo tomorrow night.
The atmosphere inside the 53,000 capacity Rajko Mitic Stadium tomorrow night along with the partisan home crowd seemed to be at the forefront during the pre- match Red Star Belgrade press conference. Andy Robertson was up first to answer a few questions from the media before he exited and made way for Klopp to speak to the journalists. He was asked about his expectations around the atmosphere tomorrow night and whether he felt that last season’s largely successful Champion’s league run would give the squad confidence to play despite the partisan atmosphere. Robertson had this to say:
We’re expecting another special atmosphere, of course. We’ve seen videos of the fans and it’s a special stadium. But we’ve got the experience of playing in these [kind of] stadiums before and we’ve just got to focus on the game at hand. There was a few of us new to the Champions League last season and we gained invaluable experience by going the distance, obviously, and just falling short. But I feel we’ve took that into this campaign already and we’re a lot more experienced in dealing with these things. The semi-final at Rome was a special atmosphere as well and we dealt with that pretty well, so we’re looking to do that tomorrow night. We need to use it [the atmosphere] to our advantage. Walking down that tunnel with the noise, the lads have got to use it to their advantage and not let it affect us. I’m sure we’ll do that.
When Klopp was asked about what he felt would be the biggest challenge for the Reds tomorrow night, he answered: “The combination of atmosphere and football they play. I said it after the first game, I saw it in that game – we were really good that night and if we would have been a little bit less good then immediately Red Star would have been in the game. But, that night, we were really strong and that was good. We have to be very strong tomorrow again, football-wise.
“Atmosphere… we are from Liverpool so we know how big the influence can be. The only way I know to cool the atmosphere down is playing really good football. That’s what we have to try; to be ready for a fight and ready for a big game. We will be ready, that’s the only thing I can make sure of. Then the boys have to do the job on the pitch, of course…
We were twice in a final; that means we are really used to difficult atmospheres and difficult situations. That’s what we have to be again tomorrow and then let’s do what we are best in – playing football – and try to win the game.”
Klopp then went on to say:
For football it’s always important that you can enjoy the challenge as well. Tomorrow will be a fantastic atmosphere. When you describe it, always it sounds like something we have to be afraid of. But, for me, actually one big reason why I really enjoy being a manager of such a big club is because we have big atmospheres really often. I like that. The people want to support their team, that’s perfect, and we have to make sure we are ready for that.
Well, the Liverpool collective supporter base are ready to watch our Reds slay the Red-and-Whites tomorrow!
* Travelling squad:
Fabinho, Virgil Van Dijk, Georginio Wijnaldum, Dejan Lovren ,James Milner, Naby Keita, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah, Joe Gomez, Alisson Becker, Daniel Sturridge, Alberto Moreno, Adam Lallana, Simon Mignolet, Andrew Robertson, Divock Origi, Dominic Solanke, Joel Matip, Caoimhin Kelleher and Trent Alexander-Arnold. For more on Xherdan Shaqiri’s absence from the squad, click here.