Klopp savouring Liverpool’s “tough as it gets” Champions League tie vs. Leipzig

Liverpool were drawn against RB Leipzig in the last 16 of the Champions League on Monday, and Jurgen Klopp is excited by the prospect but knows it will be a “tough” challenge.

The Reds finished as winners of Group D having won four, drawn one and lost just one of their games, seeing them finish ahead of Atalanta, Ajax and Midtjylland.

As group winners, ahead of the Italians by two points, Liverpool set up potential ties against the likes of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Lazio after their second-placed finish.

But it was RB Leipzig who were drawn against Liverpool in the first knockout stage, with the German side hosting the first leg on February 16 before returning to Anfield on March 10.

It will be the first meeting with Leipzig for both Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp, a club which was once the home of Naby Keita prior to his switch in 2018.

“Pretty much as tough as it gets. I was pretty sure we would get one of the Germany teams – either ‘Gladbach or Leipzig, both are strong,” Klopp told the club’s official website.

“Leipzig played in the semi-final last year and this year look good again. In a very difficult, tricky group they went through and says pretty much everything about them, outstanding.

NYON, SWITZERLAND - Monday, December 14, 2020: The completed draw shown on the big screen during the UEFA Champions League 2020/21 Round of 16 draw at the UEFA Headquarters, the House of European Football. (Photo Handout/UEFA)

“I think because they played in the semi-final last year, probably English people now know them better but usually it is like, ‘Liverpool are big favourites’ – but it will be a tough one.

“It is the last 16 of the Champions League, so how can you find 15 other clubs who are not strong in Europe when you play in this competition? It is not possible.

“So, that’s the draw, we take it. It’s still a long time until we meet them, a lot of games to play between now and then, a lot of things can happen, but I am excited.

“I never played against Leipzig – they came up to the Bundesliga after I left, so I have never been in their stadium, but it is a wonderful city and let’s see.”

Leipzig sealed their place in the last 16 after finishing second in Group H behind Paris Saint-Germain and ahead of Man United, with their 3-2 win over the latter on the final group matchday the deciding result.

This is the third-ever season of competing in the Champions League having only been formed in 2009, with Julian Nagelsmann leading his side to the semi-finals last season only to lose to PSG.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, August 23, 2017: TSG 1899 Hoffenheim's head coach Julian Nagelsmann shakes hands with Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the UEFA Champions League Play-Off 2nd Leg match between Liverpool and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It will not be the first time Liverpool meets Nagelsmann, however, after coming head to head when he was in charge of Hoffenheim, and Klopp spoke highly of his counterpart.

“Oh, he is definitely someone I have a lot of respect for,” he continued.

“We played against Julian Nagelsmann, the coach, when he was at Hoffenheim, which was a tough one. Now he has a better team, a really exciting team. Lost Timo Werner, still in the top three of the Bundesliga, that says really everything about them.

“The club has a very interesting story. It’s not the oldest club in Germany, it’s only founded 10 years ago or so. But they are doing a really good job, I have to say, and I respect a lot what they are doing. I’m looking forward to the games, honestly.”