Atletico Madrid are one of the toughest opponents a club can come up against in Europe, one of the most determined and best drilled defensive sides in the game, and Liverpool have had first hand experience with that.
Two seasons ago, Atleti knocked Jürgen Klopp’s Reds out of the Round of 16. Liverpool managed a measure of revenge by winning their last group stage game against them this season, but another victory tonight will be a difficult task.
“They are Spanish champions and I would expect them to retain their crown and rightly be considered one of the favourites for the competition we play in this evening,” Klopp noted in the matchday programme.
“Of course, that respect doesn’t mean we temper our expectations. On the occasions we have faced each other over the past few years I think we have always shown our own quality, including the last match in Madrid.”
Atleti are indeed in the La Liga title race again, two points back of Rea Madrid and Sevilla and three off surprise leaders Real Sociedad—though with the Basque club having played a game more than the three trailing clubs.
They also know that they need a result tonight, and preferably a win, to avoid a potentially embarrassing group stage outcome as they currently sit level with Porto on just four points after the opening three group stage games.
Liverpool, on the other hand, know a victory will take them to twelve points after a perfect three wins from their first three Champions League matches—and that that result would guarantee them a place in the knockout rounds.
“When you prepare to face them you know you have to win the battle first,” Klopp added. “But we have always demonstrated we have [that] ability. We cannot be outfought or outworked when we are in the right mood.
“The last time we played each other here, Atletico won the tie but our performance that night was exceptional. You know they will be hungry and determined. So we don’t just have to match that, we need to better it.”