Jurgen Klopp wants Real Madrid to finally experience the ‘real’ Liverpool as he plots a Champions League comeback unlike any in Anfield history.
Liverpool’s last two meetings with Zinedine Zidane’s side ended in dejection, hopes of avenging the 2018 final looking remote after last week’s limp first leg away performance ended in the same 3-1 defeat.
In usual circumstances, Klopp would summon the spirits of past glories to swell the belief of a vibrant crowd and dressing room before the second leg. But the absence of fans led to the notable absence of a blood-thumping rallying cry from the coach, who must dig deep into his motivational powers and tactical nous to add the latest chapter to his club’s decorated European history.
“When you’re 3-1 down it looks like you are already out, that means you have not a lot to lose, let me say it like this,” said Klopp. “Everybody is (talking) about our comebacks in the past and it was with supporters. That’s true. But (there are) a lot of problems we will face before we have even a chance to win. The (first leg) result is a problem, the quality of the opponent is a problem, and then obviously that the stadium is empty is a problem.
“For me, much more important is the performance. We have to play like ourselves. Then we will see where the result leads us to. When we are really good then we can beat Real Madrid. But we have to be really good. What we have to do is pretty clear. Everyone who saw us playing well knows what we have to do in these moments because it is exactly playing like our best selves. Then we can win the game.”
Asked if his players needed to restore pride after being comprehensively outplayed in last week's first half, Klopp added: “That’s the plan. I am already completely in the mood for the game and that means whatever we want in this tie. We have to show it on the pitch and not in the press conferences.
“It’s a difference to watch Real Madrid and to play Real Madrid, I have to say, because the individual quality of the players is really high if they want something desperately, which was the case (last Tuesday).
“To beat Real Madrid you have to defend Real Madrid on your absolute highest level because their offensive qualities are incredible. The first goal they scored (last week) is a good example for it; for most of the teams in the world, it was not even half a chance, but the pass from Toni Kroos and the first touch and the finish was absolutely incredible.”
Klopp must decide whether to unleash all four of his senior strikers — Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino — or go with his tried-and-trust 4-3-3.
Keeping a clean sheet against Real without senior centre-backs is an even more formidable challenge. Given the circumstances, defender Andy Robertson says the task facing Liverpool on Wednesday is comparable to having to beat Barcelona 4-0 en route to the final two years ago.
“They are both as hard, and are different but same in their own way,” said Robertson. “Barcelona that night was obviously incredible and wouldn’t have been possible without 55,000 fans. That’s a fact with the noise they made at the start, the noise they made when we scored the first and it just carried on and got louder and louder as the night went on. The fans made us feel ten feet tall and believe even more. Unfortunately tomorrow night we won’t have that.
“We are coming up against the team that is the most experienced in this tournament and won it the most times in the short history and long history. They are a fantastic team full of quality. It’s a big task for us. We can’t rely on the fact we came back in that (Barcelona) game.”
Despite the obstacles, the Scottish captain is confident of a vastly improved performance.
“We believe we can win the game. We believe we can win any game,” said Robertson. “Maybe not many give us hope but we believe we can put in a better performance than last week and that’s the only way to give us a fighting chance. We need to be better at everything we do. We need to make it uncomfortable for them. If we can do that and take chances, let’s see where it can take us. It needs to be a close to perfect game. It’s up to us to create a Champions League night at Anfield without the fans.”