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‘My teams would never resort to Atletico’s style’ - Jurgen Klopp braces Liverpool for Simeone showdown

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

Jurgen Klopp offered an unapologetic reminder of how much he loathes Diego Simeone’s football style, but the Liverpool manager warned his players they would be “eaten up” if they did not meet fire with fire against Atletico Madrid tonight.

The last meeting between the clubs was in the round of 16 in 2020, Liverpool beaten in an ill-tempered tie just before Covid-19 forced the world into lockdown.

The first leg in Madrid was memorable for Klopp accusing Atletico’s players of play-acting to try to get Sadio Mane sent off, with the African substituted early to avoid suspension. “He [Mane] was targeted. It was clear.

They wanted to make sure he got a yellow card,” said Klopp in February 2020. “It is part of the game, but I do not like that. In the first 30 minutes, three of their players went to the ground, I don’t know what for.”

Klopp was reminded of his criticism by Spanish media ahead of his return to the Wanda Metropolitano.

“What I said was, for sure, influenced by the mood I was in on that specific day one and a half years ago,” Klopp said.

“I was angry and disappointed about a lot of things – life a bit, as things were going wrong (with the pandemic) and we had to concentrate on football in a really strange circumstance. Then, of course, we played against a team full of first-class players who defended with all they had, and that was probably the reason I said the things I said.

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“Diego Simeone is doing everything absolutely right. He is the Spanish champion, very successful there, has a bunch of world-class players, who he keeps on their toes, and they fight for all their life.

"That says a lot about the quality of Diego, so I couldn’t have more respect for what they do. Do I like it? Not too much, only because I prefer a different kind of football. Other coaches prefer other styles so no one has to like it, it just has to be successful and that is what Atletico is.

“In very difficult times for football in Spain, they did a very impressive job with signings and have a proper team and look possible La Liga champions again this year.”

Asked specifically about his different view on football, Klopp added: “Would it be the style I wanted to play? No. I couldn’t. I’m not the person for it, but we are all different and that is why it is fine.

"It is all about winning football games. You have to play a top-class game and be incredibly brave. If you don’t do that, they eat you. Atletico are the best of them (those sorts of teams) because they have the best players. It’s a proper, proper fight.”

Liverpool head to Spain in majestic form, Klopp’s press conferences rapidly turning into a vehicle for him to pay tribute to an assortment of players; he was invited to praise Sadio Mane – who scored his 100th league goal last weekend; rejuvenated Roberto Firmino, and Virgil van Dijk, who was lost to the side with a serious knee injury exactly a year ago. The Dutchman’s comeback has been seamless.

Inevitably, Mohamed Salah continues to dominate most attention given his extraordinary run of goals, so Klopp was asked if the Egyptian should win the Ballon d’Or.

“Yes. But I have no idea how exactly you win the Ballon d’Or,” Klopp said. “If it’s about being in the Champions League final, scoring the most goals, then it could be slightly difficult. But if it’s about performances over the last two years, then he has a chance.

“Does he get the recognition finally? Internally he always got it, externally I don’t know. After two goals he scored, now people think all of a sudden he could be the best player in the world. It is a bit strange. He scored goals like this and performed for years at an incredibly high level. My concern is that he will do it again and again.”

Atletico Madrid v Liverpool,
Live, RTÉ2/BT Sport 2, 8.0

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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