After its own extended winter break, Champions League football is back on the menu today with Liverpool vs. Atletico Madrid one of the matches to kick off the Round of 16, and it’s a tie that has both managers talking up their opponents as the game draws near.
First there was Jürgen Klopp calling Atleti “one of the most difficult things in the life of a football player” and a team that, if you’re not at your best against, you “don’t even have a chance” against. And sure enough, Diego Simeone was quick to return the praises.
“I have no doubt that that as we look back across all those years, [this] Liverpool will have their place in history,” the Atleti boss said of his opponents tonight in Madrid. “They have qualities, characteristics, that are different to all those teams we have admired.
“They’re much more direct, much more intense, have much more variety. I feel a great admiration for them. These are teams that reflect the characteristics of their coaches, but then the potential of the players obviously makes you play in different ways.”
Simeone reaffirmed that he has no doubt that this Liverpool side “will go down as a great team,” but he added that doesn’t mean he doesn’t think he and this Atleti side—even an Atleti side in the midst of a rebuild—don’t have a chance to win the game tonight.
On paper, the best Liverpool side in the Premier League era versus the worst Atleti side Simeone has managed, one he has admitted is in the midst of a rebuild, should mean a Liverpool win. But results aren’t handed out based on which team should win on paper.
“What do you want me to say?” Simeone added when asked about entering the tie as underdogs. “It’s fine for everyone to expect whatever they imagine but all these words are for the preview. When the game starts, it’s a game, and in a game anything can happen.
“The stadium will be alive and they will struggle, just as we will struggle when we go there. Over two legs there’s a chance for both teams and I trust in my players . I don’t see pessimism, I see optimism, hope, a packed stadium, and an incredible desire to play.”