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'We do not feel like last year's winner, more the contender of this year' - Klopp still ravenous for European success


Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp


Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp returned to the scene of his greatest managerial triumph insisting he feels like a Champions League contender rather than European champion, as he targets a third successive final.

Two hundred and sixty-one days since departing Madrid's Wanda Metropolitano embracing the European Cup, Klopp heard Atletico rival Diego Simeone say the current Liverpool team will be regarded as one of the greatest in history.

"We do not feel like the winner of last year's Champions League final, we feel like the contender of this year," Klopp said. "Hopefully we can show that. We want to be there in Istanbul (in the final).

"We see ourselves as a team that can go to the final and can win the competition. Not the only team, one of the teams."

If familiarity breeds contempt, Liverpool will stride even more confidently into the stadium where they secured the club's sixth Champions League with June's 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.

Such is the stature of Klopp's team, Simeone offered the most lavish praise to emphasise the scale of his side's task in the last-16 tie.

"This Liverpool team will go down in football history as a great team because it is different to other teams. This team is more intensive, changes and adapts. I admire this as a rival coach," Simeone said.

But the Atletico coach also promised an "explosive" atmosphere - one that Klopp is already anticipating given both managers wear their hearts on sleeves in the technical area.

"People say about me I am emotional on the sideline. If I am level four I would say he is level 12," Klopp said.

"I am like the Kindergarten Cop against him. Playing Atletico is one of the most difficult things in the life of a football player. Really well organised, a results machine, squeezing results pretty much out of each game.

"If there is a team where you have to be at your best, it is Atletico. There is a reason why Atletico was in European finals as well.

"But on the other side, I do not think they play against a team like us. We should not forget that. We combine a few things. We are organised as well, we respect the game, have a readiness to play. We play football and we are ready to fight."

It was at this stage of last season when the dominant Liverpool of the past eight months started to fully form. Klopp referenced the last-16 victory over Bayern Munich as a prototype performance.

Atletico, a pragmatic side, now face the same strategic problem, knowing they must take a positive result to Anfield.

Klopp said: "If we can get a result we know Anfield is a proper threat and help. That is the story so far."

Klopp has the chance to select what many regard as his first-choice line-up for the first time this season. The likely starting XI - the team who won last year's final, with Joe Gomez replacing Joel Matip - have not played a single minute of the campaign together.

Among them, Trent Alexander-Arnold responded to Brazilian legend Cafu suggesting he sees some of himself in the Liverpool youngster.

"Massive praise from a legend of the game, which is something that I'm really thankful for and I have to give thanks to him for those words," said Alexander-Arnold.

"I try and be the best player I can be but it's a team game. Accolades may or may not come in the future, it doesn't really faze me. For me, especially, it's about winning the team trophies."

Liverpool have no fresh injury concerns for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Sadio Mane came through unscathed after coming off the bench to score on his return to action against Norwich. Xherdan Shaqiri is still sidelined with a hamstring injury. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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