Jurgen Klopp pulled no punches as he insisted Manchester City are the best team left in the Champions League , writes David Maddock in Porto .
And for the Liverpool manager, that is evidence enough that his own side are not in the competition to make the up the numbers… because they KNOW they have the beating of the runaway Premier League leaders.
As he arrived here in northern Portugal, the German coach was firmly confident in his assertion that his Reds will not be daunted by the presence of the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and PSG in the last 16.
Asked if he looks at those teams and thinks he can compete with them, he replied bluntly: “I know it already we can compete with them, I don’t have to look at them.
“I think probably the strongest football team in Europe at this moment is Manchester City. So we played them twice already at the highest level.
“PSG is a little different, but I don’t look at them, I know it already (we can compete with them). If we meet them (Manchester City) then we could beat them. That is how it is.”
In fact, Klopp revealed that his simple message to his team is to go out and listen to the Champions League theme music played before kick-off in the Estadio do Dragao on Wednesday, and be inspired by it.
He understands Porto will be tough opposition, especially in their tight, intimidating stadium which generates a hostile atmosphere, but he believes this is Liverpool’s moment.
“The last 16 in Europe there are so many good teams around who want to be in the competition and we are in,” he explained.
“So that is cool, but now we have to show that we don’t only want to be part of the competition… we are quite ambitious. That is how it is and we have to take it seriously.
“It feels different and you should not ignore that. You should not ignore the song at the beginning of the game. When you hear it – you sit at home and you think, ‘I want to be part of that.’
“And you hear it in the stadium and think, ‘I’m part of that.’ (big grin). It is the biggest club competition. But my experience taught me it is football, so the better side you have the better the chances, and we have quite a good football team.
“I can not score the goals or whatever but we will be in the right mood for that game tomorrow. It was a long break between the group stage and now, but from the moment we were through we have been waiting for this and that’s what we have to show.”
Liverpool of course, must pursue their ambition of making the final without Philippe Coutinho, after his record-breaking move to Barca, but Klopp is adamant they can manage.
“We qualified for the Champions League without Phil — he was not involved in either of the Hoffenheim games.
“All the players we have here are fantastic players, it’s about really how we stick to the way we want to play.
“If you ask me, I would like us to be the team with the biggest desire. That doesn’t mean we go through but it is important for us to show it.”
Klopp is without the suspended Emre Can, but skipper Jordan Henderson will return to lead the team.
PORTO Jose Sa; Ricardo, Marcano, D Reyes, A Telles; J Corona, H Herrera, S Oliveira; M Marega, F Soares, Y Brahimi
LIVERPOOL Karius; Gomez, Lovren, van Dijk, Robertson; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henderson, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
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