Normally, in the Champions League when Liverpool are involved, the questions surround how their opponent will fare coming to Anfield. Particularly in the later rounds, Liverpool’s home has an outsized reputation for the impact it can make on any opponent.
As Liverpool prepare to face Red Star Belgrade today, though, they find themselves rather on the other end of the conversation. This time, it’s Liverpool who are the ones preparing to visit one of the most intimidating stadiums in football, Belgrade’s Marakana.
“This is a big event for Red Star, for Belgrade, for Serbia, and the whole region,” Red Star manager Vladan Milojevic told reporters at the pre-match press conference. “One of the biggest clubs in the world are coming and it is going to be a spectacle.
“Liverpool are favourites but we are going to give our best and we’ll see if that is enough. Everyone knows what it means to play at Marakana. Nobody feels pleasant as a guest here. We played at Anfield but that is far from the cheering and the noise here.”
Red Star’s visit to Anfield didn’t stand out as one of the Reds’ famous European nights, a group stage match against the lowest ranked side they’ll face failing to fire up the home support as knockout ties against Manchester City and Roma did last season.
For Red Star’s fans, though, tonight’s tie is on that level. It’s City or Roma with a chance to go through to a major European final. And Liverpool shouldn’t make the mistake City and Roma did last season thinking there was no way Anfield could play a role.
Liverpool will still be favourites to win, but it will be a tough stadium to play in. Just as Anfield has helped Liverpool’s chances so often in the past in Europe, the Marakana will give Red Star a boost; will give them a chance. The Reds must be ready.
“We are in the group with teams that are fighting for the Champions League trophy,” Milojevic added. “We’ll fight for every ball and won’t think about the score. We can do much better than we did in the previous two matches.”