Liverpool’s return to the quarter finals of the Champions League is mere hours away, their first appearance in this stage of the competition since the 2008-09 season. It’s been a long wait, and they will face an incredibly difficult opponent as they attempt to push through to the semi finals.
The league leaders, and arguably the best team in Europe—the richest squad, the most lauded manager, with a 16-point lead domestically over their nearest rivals—stand in their way. There may not have been a more difficult draw, but Jordan Henderson says the Reds aren’t here by accident.
“The reality for us is that we are facing a world class side coached by a world-class manager,” noted the Liverpool captain. “But we haven’t won a raffle to be at this stage, we’ve earned it. We’re here on merit and we face City as equals. They’ll have as much respect for us as we have for them.”
Respect has been a common theme leading up to the match—on both sides—with players at both clubs and managers Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp both talking about the strength of their opponent and for their need to play well to have a chance to advance to the next round.
Respect but, also, a belief on both sides that if they play their best game, they will be the ones heading on to the semi finals when the final whistle blows on next week’s second leg tie at The Etihad. It’s a difficult draw. And it’s the kind of game players spend their careers working—and often failing—to reach.
“It’s respect, not fear,” he added. “I look at it as being a fantastic tie that the whole world will be interested in. These are the sorts of games as players that make all the hard work and sacrifice worth it. Every player in our dressing room believes in ourselves and expects to win. It will be the same for City.”