LONDON: Liverpool return to the scene of their Champions League triumph when they visit Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano on Tuesday very much the team to beat for those hoping to succeed Jurgen Klopp’s men as European champions.
Liverpool are coasting toward a first Premier League title in 30 years having dropped just two points all season and are likely to be crowned English champions before the Champions League quarter-finals commence in early April.
Liverpool remain on course for a potential five-trophy haul this season. They have already lifted the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup and are used to reaching European finals under Klopp.
The German has overseen three in four seasons at Anfield, losing the Europa League final to Sevilla in 2016 and Champions League to Real Madrid two years later before getting over the line against Tottenham in the Spanish capital last year.
“I have no clue if we can win the Champions League again but we should be ready to go for it,” said Klopp. “What I know and what we showed last year is that we can beat the best.”
On current form Atletico are little match for the holders.
For the first time in over eight years in charge, the future of Diego Simeone has been questioned with Los Rojiblancos languishing well off the pace in La Liga and battling just to qualify for next season’s Champions League. A chronic struggle to score goals has hampered Simeone’s side all season.
Joao Felix has failed to deliver on his €126 million ($138 million) price tag and the Portuguese wonder kid is a doubt for Tuesday’s first leg.
By contrast, Liverpool have hit the money with almost every major signing in recent years.
With Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, they have built a side capable of not just winning, but retaining the Champions League.
Simeone’s Atletico sides that came so close to winning the competition in losing two finals to rivals Real in 2014 and 2016 were built on the most miserly defense.
But even the Argentine would be impressed by Liverpool’s run of winning their last 11 league games by the combined score of 24-1.