WWith Milan in town, surprisingly for the first time at Anfield, it was understandable that Istanbul cropped up several times during Jürgen Klopp’s press conference on Tuesday, but also a kind of distraction from the task at the Liverpool manager’s hand. Group B, with champions, history and above all pedigree, leaves little time to remember.
Liverpool and Milan have never met outside of a Champions League final and a match between two clubs crowned European champions 13 times in total seems like a fitting way to open a group of rare stature and intrigue.
The Italian club have not competed at this level for seven years, but won twice as many away games as at home when they finished second in Serie A last season (16-8) and have lost only once in 11 away games. from home in all competitions.
Klopp sees no room for error when charting a Champions League course that also involves finding a way to beat Atlético de Madrid and Porto. It is a four-team super league, so to speak, but with risk, appeal and sporting integrity.
“This is the strongest group we’ve had since I’ve been in Liverpool, there’s no question about that,” Klopp said. “In 2013 in Dortmund we also had a real Champions League group. We had Manchester City, Real Madrid and Ajax, which was a suitable group where people were saying, ‘My God, how are we going to get through?’ This is also a suitable group.
“What does it do for the competition? He takes two really good teams out of the knockout stages and he’ll also lead a really strong soccer team to the Europa League, that’s for sure. I never understand when people talk about changes in the Champions League. It’s just not my thing. I like the way it is and this group obviously shows that there are no games where people think, ‘Do I really want to see that?’
“This group will be exciting from the first second to the last second. Nothing will be decided at the beginning of this group. That keeps us on our toes and between these games we also have some very important competition, playing the Premier League and the League Cup, and then hopefully the FA Cup later in the season. But it is exactly what we wanted. We played Milan, Atlético, Porto – incredible stadiums, huge crowds, passionate fans. It’s exactly how you want football. Now we have it, so let’s occupy it. “
The group’s first game will be Liverpool’s first European game in front of an Anfield crowd since March 11 last year when, with the pandemic in Europe, Atlético and their fans were able to travel to Merseyside for a round of 16 victory. That had place. days before it all stopped.
“It’s about getting enough points to get through the group,” Klopp said. “We better not waste time. We should start with that tomorrow night. It’s been a long time since we had a Champions League game at home and the opportunity to re-experience the atmosphere that Anfield is capable of producing. We’ve talked a lot in the past about European nights at Anfield and I can’t wait to experience that now. I’m looking forward.”
Milan coach Stefano Pioli will be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic despite the veteran scoring his last injury comeback on Sunday with a goal in a 2-0 loss to Lazio. Pioli said: “Zlatan wanted to join the party [against Lazio] and of course after the game he had some inflammation. We were hoping he could play, but he was still in pain, so we don’t want to risk tomorrow because it is a very important match and we have so many games. We are very well prepared. “
The focus of Liverpool’s injuries continues to be on Harvey Elliott, whose breakthrough season was cruelly interrupted when he suffered a dislocated ankle at Leeds on Sunday. The 18-year-old underwent successful surgery in London on Tuesday, while Leeds announced they would appeal the red card shown to defender Pascal Struijk for his defiance of the midfielder.
“I spoke to him on game night and he was in the best possible place,” Klopp said of Elliott. “He already accepted that he would be out for a while.”
Regarding his memories of 2005, Klopp said: “I was thinking about not seeing the second half because everyone in the world except a few people in the Liverpool dressing room thought the game could be decided … And then it became one of the most important football sensations and I was very glad I didn’t turn off the television. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism