Nat Phillips on Real Madrid clash and Champions League emotions
Nathaniel Phillips is eagerly anticipating the chance to test himself against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Liverpool will travel to Spain today ahead of the first leg of their clash with Los Blancos, which takes place at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Tuesday night.
The meeting between two of the previous three winners of the competition will then conclude when Real visit Anfield next Wednesday.
Phillips, who made his Champions League debut in the last round as the Reds eliminated RB Leipzig, knows a formidable opponent stands in their way to the semi-finals.
But the 24-year-old believes the most effective approach will be to block out the circumstances as he aims to help Jürgen Klopp’s side progress again.
“They certainly are [an iconic club],” he told UEFA. “And that shows in what they’ve achieved as a club, the trophies they’ve won and the level they’ve maintained for years and years, and the players that have represented them as well.
“But when you’re coming up against them as opposition, you don’t look at that. At the same time, Liverpool are on the same level in terms of what they’ve achieved as a club. So, when you’re going into a game like that you’ve got to treat it like just another game.
“Obviously you’re going to be coming up against top players and better players but, in my opinion, you’ve got to treat every game like you’re going to be coming up against the best opposition you’ve ever faced so that you’re on your best game, and it’ll be no different in that game.”
After not being available for selection during the Champions League group stage, Phillips’ bow in the tournament came as Liverpool wrapped up a 4-0 aggregate victory over Leipzig in Budapest last month.
Reflecting on his personal emotions that night, the No.47 said: “Sitting in the dressing room afterwards and [it was] just a big sigh of relief and a big smile on your face, knowing that it went the way you wanted it to go.
“Before the game, I knew there was a chance I was going to get picked to start in that game but, at the same time, I didn’t want to sort of settle on it too much and get my hopes up, in case something changed.
“Then once we did the line-up and it looked like I was starting, then I could sort of feel the emotions of excitement that I was going to make my Champions League debut.
“But, at the same time, I think in the build-up it was just a case of me making sure that I remained calm and sort of level-headed and didn’t get carried away with it too much, carried away with the occasion, and just reminded myself that, as long as I did what I knew I could do and did my job at the back, that’s all I can do, that’s all that’s being asked of me and everything will go to plan.
“Then once I was in the dressing room and we were getting changed and doing the warm-up, at that point it was real excitement. I just wanted to get to kick-off, for the ref to blow his whistle and to get playing. I was really excited just for the game to start and get things going.
“I think what helped me as well was the fact that it was the second leg and we were 2-0 up, which meant that my job was strictly just to keep the clean sheet, and there wasn’t as much pressure for us to be pushing for goals and that sort of thing. As long as we didn’t concede then we were safe, we were through. So, I suppose that helped me in a sense.”
And not even a temporary delay to his participation in the post-match celebrations could take the shine off a special experience for the defender.
“Straight after the game, I had doping,” Phillips explained. “So, I wanted to go into the dressing room and sort of enjoy the moment, but I had to go into a little closet with a doctor!
“I think that’s the fastest I’ve ever got in and out of doping in my life because sometimes you can be waiting around a while, but I just wanted to get it done as soon as possible, [so I could] get in the dressing room with the boys and enjoy the moment.”
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