Koke, Saul Niguez and Mario Hermoso celebrates a goal during La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and RCD Espanyol at Wanda Metropolitano on November 10, 2019 in Madrid, Spain . (Photo by Ruben de la Fuente Perez/NurPhoto)

Koke admits Atletico “have to try to win” at Anfield after previous slip-ups

Atletico Madrid make the short trip to Merseyside for the second leg of the last-16 tie, and captain Koke is not afraid of Anfield but is wary of falling into a similar trap.

Diego Simeone’s side head to Liverpool with a 1-0 advantage on Wednesday having stunted the Reds’ attack in Madrid last month, leaving everything to play for at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were effectively nullified and failed to have one shot on target, but with the tie now heading back to Anfield there is every confidence in their ability to turn it around.

That is for those of the Liverpool persuasion, as Atletico captain Koke and his team are intent on inflicting Klopp’s first defeat in a European two-legged tie since his arrival at the club.

And while the scoreboard currently sees Atletico with the upper-hand, the Spanish outfit has previous with relinquishing a lead, and it offers the Reds the chance to reopen an old would.

Having won 2-0 on home soil in the same stage of the competition last season against Juventus, Atletico then went on to lose 3-0 in Turin – ensuring the mindset this time around is to win rather than defend a lead.

“[The second leg] will squeeze us a lot, I have seen a few teams so direct and intense. We have to try to win,” he told Spanish outlet Marca.

MADRID, SPAIN - Tuesday, February 18, 2020: Club Atlético de Madrid's Sau?l N?i?guez celebrates scoring the first goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 1st Leg match between Club Atlético de Madrid and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Metropolitano. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“If we only think about defending, it can happen to us as against Juve. We have to learn so that it doesn’t happen again.

“They came out with an attitude and mentality so we couldn’t play the game we wanted. We have to go to win with another mentality.”

Atletico will no doubt remain defensively resolute but Koke’s admission could hint at yet another attempt for a quick start on the scoreboard before settling into a deep block.

It is something Klopp’s side have struggled to overcome in the aftermath of the first leg in Madrid as Premier League teams look to deploy a similar blueprint.

And while Atletico president Enrique Cerezo may have said: “Anfield is a great stadium but it’s old. It probably wouldn’t pass the UEFA inspection if it had to do it,” in jest following their win, history suggests it will not be as straightforward as they would like.

European nights under the lights have claimed a number of victims and as is customary before the visit of a team or player who has not felt its wrath, Koke insists he is not afraid of the occasion as he looks to banish his demons of letting leads slip in the competition.

“I’ve never been to Anfield and I don’t have to be afraid, just excited and eager to play against them in a stadium with so much history,” he continued.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, October 2, 2019: Liverpool supporters on the Spion Kop with a banner "Champions of Europe" during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Liverpool FC and FC Salzburg at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“In the end, it is what is cool about the Champions League.

“It is the example [defeats to Juventus and Bayern] that you have to go for them and dial. We are 1-0 but we have to win.

“[It is] more than an obsession [to win the competition], it is exciting. I’ve been close. Why not dream? We’ll see what happens in Anfield.”

That we will. Fortress Anfield will be waiting, a ground which has not tasted defeat in the Premier League or in Europe since April 2017.