Cautious Milner takes Porto's gushing praise with large dose of salt
James Milner last night dismissed a lavish tribute from Porto coach Sergio Conceicao and insisted that Liverpool must deliver a trophy before they are worthy of the description: "best team in the world".
The gushing praise was accepted with a heavy dose of scepticism by Milner and his manager Jurgen Klopp, who hinted that the premature adulation might have an ulterior motive ahead of the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final, which Liverpool lead 2-0.
"That's a nice compliment, and you get those compliments by playing good football over a sustained period of time so we can take that as a compliment," said Milner.
"But to be that, I think you have to win trophies, and that's something we haven't done yet and something we are really trying to do this season.
"There are a lot of good teams left in the Champions League and it's down to us to prove that and go and win these games and, hopefully, win at least one trophy this season."
Klopp was just as reluctant to embrace the extravagant commendation.
"Sometimes we are really good, that's true, and maybe I can understand why he (Conceicao) said that," said Klopp.
"It is a compliment, probably, and meant as a compliment. He probably still believes in their chances. We are not here to celebrate our situation. We are here to get to the next round. We have to fight."
Conceicao insisted he was sincere. "Liverpool give me all what I like about football. In terms of their players and the way they play in the game," said the 44-year-old.
"I like the Liverpool dynamics. I like the Liverpool game model. I like the way they play and the way they are with the ball and also without it.
"It is similar to how I see football and in a lot of these moments in a game, they are the best team in the world."
There is no prospect of Liverpool heading into Estadio de Dragao believing they are already in the semi-finals.
Last season Klopp's side won 5-0 here, yet the Liverpool manager said that was a flattering score.
His players watched a 45-minute video of Porto's last-16 win over Roma in which they overturned a 2-1 first-leg deficit.
"In the preparation I did not like (our) last game (against Porto). It was really strange," said Klopp.
"Until we were 2-0 up it was a completely open game. The players do not misunderstand. Porto is a really good team. We have to be good again. We have to play to our limit."
The odds still favour Klopp's side. Liverpool have been beaten only once by a two-goal margin this season, away to Red Star Belgrade in the group stages.
The previous occasion was in the Champions League final against Real Madrid.
Liverpool last lost a two-goal lead to Paris St-Germain, also in this year's group stages, but still won 3-2.
The last time it happened and they lost was away at Bournemouth in December 2016.
But this year's competition has served up enough reminders of what can happen in the second leg on a hostile night in Europe with several teams retrieving seemingly impossible situations.
"If we were 2-0 down and going into the home leg, would we think we were out? No way.
"That's exactly what Porto are thinking," Klopp added. "They always have a high, intense game and it's played in the highest intense atmosphere.
"We can compare it a little bit to the City game last year when we were 3-0 up and everybody thought, 'halfway through' or whatever.
"We go there to win, that's the plan. It's not easy, we know that, but we should not think about anything else."
Although Dejan Lovran has been ruled out by illness, Klopp's defensive options have been improved after Joe Gomez successfully came through an U-23 game last weekend, although Klopp suggested he was more likely to start on the bench. (© Daily Telegraph, London).
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