Liverpool are ready to give the task of trying to retain their Champions League crown a ‘proper try’, Jürgen Klopp insists, but face a challenge he believes to be one of the most difficult in European football when they take on Atletico Madrid in the last-16 stage.

The Reds touched down in Spain in Monday ahead of the first leg of the tie with the La Liga club as the tournament’s knockout phase begins.

Tuesday’s fixture will take place at the same venue Liverpool hoisted aloft the European Cup last June – Estadio Metropolitano – and speaking during his pre-match press conference at the stadium, Klopp outlined his side’s determination preserve their status as reigning champions.

Nevertheless, the manager detailed why he believes they face one of the game’s toughest opponents in the form of Atletico.

Read on for a summary of what the manager had to say in his press conference below…

On the challenge of taking on Atletico Madrid…

Playing Atletico is one of the most difficult things in the life of a football player. [They are] really good organised, a result-machine, squeezing results pretty much out of each game if possible. Yes, people will tell me – and have told me already – this year it is not exactly like it was, it’s a transition period that’s normal, but still [they are] fighting with all they have, don’t [concede] a lot of chances and all that stuff. That is really difficult. What they played so far in the season was not as bad as people are saying and it is nothing to do with their chances tomorrow. The team who will play better tomorrow and then in the next game when we play against each other, who fight more, who want it more will go to the next round and not the team who plays a better Premier League or La Liga season. It’s as easy as that. We are here and I think nobody doubts that we are really ambitious, so we will give it a proper try.

On his impressive record in two-legged European ties as Liverpool manager…

I don’t know. It is impressive that record. I thought always when we were part of any European competition we ended up in the final, which is nice - especially when you win the final otherwise it is not that nice. I cannot explain it, really. We want to go as far as possible, we see ourselves as a team who can go to the final, who can win the competition – not the only team, but one of the teams. When you start, not all teams who start in the Champions League can win the competition, that’s clear beforehand. We as a club, as a team, we have the chance to, so that’s what we try to show in all of these different games. Obviously we always, I think, struggled a little bit in the group stage, right? [But we] came through, then in the knockout [rounds] we were quite convincing, so hopefully it will be like this tomorrow as well.

On whether the Champions League brings the very best out of his team…

It looks like. Some of the best games we played were away games, actually. Bayern was one of the best games I have ever witnessed. The Barcelona game, we lost 3-0, but it was one of the best games I’ve witnessed. If we can get a result then we know Anfield is a proper threat and help. That’s the story so far; I have nothing bad to say about that situation, but it doesn’t mean it will be [like that] this time again. If there is a team where you have to, you have to, be at your absolute best in all departments it is Atletico. There are no presents tomorrow, absolutely no presents. If you work as hard as possible then you have a chance, but if we don’t do that then we don’t even have a chance. That’s exactly like it is.

There is a reason why Atletico were that often in European finals as well. Now not for, I don’t know exactly, two or three years or so, but before that and it just shows how long they’ve worked together. It is normal you have to change it a little bit; they had to change, they did that, brought in big potential, some experience and it is completely normal. We cannot think about that, I see a team playing and for me, it looks like a real proper machine. It is like whatever happens then they are there, in the moment when you are not 100 per cent focused or concentrated, they close you down with two players, three players, however many they need and then counter-attack. If you are not focused and concentrated in your own offensive stuff, then you will not even have a shot on target because they close the centre so good, they defend in a specific way.

It is all clear but on the other hand side, I don’t think a lot of teams – if they didn’t play against us [already] – have played against a team like us. We should not forget that. We combine a few things, we are not bad organised as well, we play football, we respect different aspects of the game I would say. [Our] readiness to fight is exceptional. We don’t feel like the winner of last year’s Champions League tournament, we feel like one of the contenders for this year’s – and we want to show that. We want to be there in Istanbul if possible and for that we know, historically in our own history and in general, you have to what work your socks off and that’s exactly what we have to be ready [to do] tomorrow. Hopefully we can show that.

On his respect for his opposite number, Diego Simeone…

People say about me that I am emotional on the sideline, so if I am on level four, then I would say Diego is on level 12 or so! Really, I am like the Kindergarten Cop against him! It’s really impressive, over all these years. Eight years, that’s really long and having still this emotional level, wow - that’s absolutely impressive. As I say, his teams are always world-class organised, so that makes him one of the best. We’ve met once or twice, we exchanged some messages after big defeats or big wins and tomorrow in a real competitive game we will meet for the first time and it will be interesting, absolutely interesting.

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