Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is pursuing perfection against Atletico Madrid tonight.
That's the only way his side can defend their status as European champions, the Reds coach said, as he warned his players they must "attack, create and protect like never before in our life" to overcome the club with the most shut-outs in Champions League history.
Liverpool's squad, buoyed by the return from injury of Jordan Henderson, may feel reassured their manager has already delivered one masterclass on the eve of what is sure to be a feisty evening with Diego Simeone.
Klopp's pre-match conferences the day before potential European epics tend to serve as a rallying cry. There was another element yesterday with Klopp finding the right euphemism to describe the scale of the challenge against streetwise opponents.
Where plenty describe Atletico's propensity to dive, surround the referee and waste time as gamesmanship, Klopp opted to use the milder description of "experienced". When invited to remark on the ultra-defensive style favoured by Simeone, Klopp described them as the "pinnacle" in blocking teams.
Pressed about Liverpool's failure to have a shot on target in the first leg against a team who are statistically the meanest to ever play Champions League football, the Liverpool coach said this was a hazard against "the world's best at deep defending".
"A lot of people admire that and we have to fight against it," said Klopp. "We need to be nearly perfect. That is how it is. We have to attack. We have to create. We have to protect like never before in our life and we have to interact. And we need Anfield. That is the truth.
"It is like every game we have played since Atletico is a build-up for now - the pinnacle of these types of games. I am not saying they hit every ball over our heads, it is just that they are a real block to play against.
"Traditionally, that is Diego Simeone with Atletico. We need a result so we cannot worry about the situation that they are 1-0 up, so we have to win and they only have to counter-attack."
On the surface, all these observations underlined Klopp's respect for the challenge ahead. But the Liverpool manager betrayed his true feelings during and in the immediate aftermath of the 1-0 defeat in Madrid, especially irked by having to substitute Sadio Mane at half-time having concluded he would be sent off and suspended for the second leg because of Atletico players haranguing the referee to give a second yellow card.
So the clues were offered about the test of skill, patience and tolerance needed to keep 11 players on the pitch.
"We spoke about that already but we will probably mention it again," Klopp said. "Yeah, that would help 100 per cent. In a similar situation in the second game I probably wouldn't do the same [take Mane off].
"We are 1-0 down, yes, but with 10 players you have much less of a chance to fight back. You need always a referee who is aware of situations like this, we cannot do it by ourselves. We have no influence over that. We have to deal with it. Sadio did nothing wrong, absolutely nothing, and I still thought in the next situation it will be like this.
"But if it was always that easy for you to get out the best player of the opponent then there is something wrong with the game. If the player does nothing wrong but it's still possible... wow!
"Everyone runs against his elbow or whatever - that should not happen. We expect a really 'experienced' performance from Atletico, let me say that. But there is another area of football where we can be better than the first game. We need higher speed in different moments, better switches in different moments, we need braver football in different moments, we need to play around the formation, behind the formation, play through the gaps. If you play predictably, Atletico's defence will go for the next six months."
Liverpool no longer have to look through the archives for inspiration, although rather than the historic semi-final comeback win over Barcelona, Klopp highlighted an earlier round in last year's competition.
"We played Napoli at home last season when we had to win 1-0. That was the most difficult challenge I have faced in my life," Klopp said. "An Italian team. You need to win 1-0. How is that possible? We did it. I do not say we will do it again - I only say we should give it a proper try. That is all I want, and then we accept what happens. If Atletico go through, congratulations. If not then we will have deserved it." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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