Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp accepts his players will have to suffer in the Nou Camp if they are to deny Lionel Messi the opportunity to fulfil his pre-season “threat” to win the Champions League.
Back in August the Argentina international, in his first public address as captain, told a packed stadium before friendly against Boca Juniors he and the players had made it their ambition to win the trophy for a sixth time.
They had been stung by watching Real Madrid win their third consecutive title—against Klopp’s side—and 13th in all and Messi said: “Last season was really good as we did the double but we all felt bad about how it went in the Champions League.
“We promise that this season we will do all we can to bring that beautiful trophy back to the Camp Nou.”
Klopp said he viewed that as fighting talk and with the two teams now pitted together in a semi-final first leg, Messi and his team-mates will be put to the test.
“Messi said before the start of the season that they wanted to bring back this cup. That sounded already like a threat to me! Now we are here, we want to go to the final as well,” said the Reds boss, who when asked to rate Messi said he was his number one.
“We won’t be perfect tomorrow, we will make mistakes, we will suffer, 100 percent. We can’t be completely free to play our game.
“I know people made out that we became better in the last couple of years and Barcelona is not the same without Xavi or Iniesta but we have been here for two years, they have been here for 20 years.
“I would say a draw would not be the worst result in the world, not that we go for it but it would be OK.
“So many people came to Barcelona and had a plan and in the end they got a proper knock.
“But there were a few who could really cause problems: we saw the game against Real Sociedad and they did well, Levante did well a couple of days ago.”
Klopp’s record in Spain is poor, with three draws and five defeats, but that does not mean he has not had success against Spanish sides.
With Borussia Dortmund he beat Real Madrid on the way to the final in 2013. That had personal benefits for Klopp as he recalled a holiday in Ibiza.
“Because I beat Real Madrid a couple of times, one day I got a full table in Ibiza,” he said.
“The restaurant was full but they said, ‘You are Jurgen Klopp, you beat Real Madrid, you’d better take it’.”
Klopp was also reminded of comments he made about Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona side in 2013, which his hosts viewed as derogatory.
Nothing could be further from the truth, argued the German who six years ago said “If Barcelona’s team of the last four years had been the first one that I saw play when I was four…I would have played tennis instead.”
By way of explanation Klopp said: “What I wanted to say was, what I most like in football is that both teams have pretty much the same chance.
“If the other team is much better you can bring them onto your level with tactics. For me, when Pep was here, they were so good and so dominant then that is not a competition. That’s why I said that.
“I like the opportunity in football to use tactics, not only defensive tactics but just to make it an exciting game. That’s what I thought and what I think still.”