Liverpool face a difficult task heading to Spain to take on Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie, but for Atleti the task is arguably even more difficult: finding a way to stop Europe’s in-form club and the competition’s defending champions.
And according to Atleti midfielder Saúl Ñíguez, part of the difficulty of facing the Reds comes from what he sees as unique approach to the press, an approach whose movements can even seem entirely disordered at times but that always has a purpose.
“They have those attack dogs in the middle who run and press,” he said of the challenge Atlei will face tonight. “But it’s not just running for the sake of running. They can do things that aren’t normal and it looks disordered but it’s ordered, mechanised.
“It’s very hard to escape when they come at you like that. One comes out here and you think, ‘That’s mad, why’s he there?’ It’s incredible, they press like animals. They know that even if they get turned there will be seven running like mad to get back.”
As for how to stop them, or at least to have the best chance at it, Ñíguez says the answer is fairly clear, and it’s one that will hardly come as a surprise to Liverpool fans and to manager Jürgen Klopp: sitting deep and setting up a low block to try to frustrate them.
“Liverpool are very complete, a great team,” he added “But they find it hardest when you’re deep because they’re very, very, very good in transition. I watched them against Norwich and there if it wasn’t for Mané’s extraordinary control they don’t win.
“But they’ve won lots of games they could have drawn or lost, which tells you something about what they have inside. It’s not luck. It’s work, sacrifice, not giving up a single ball for lost.”