Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool should embrace the “exciting” challenge of facing reigning European champions Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16.
The two European giants were pitted against each other in Monday’s draw to set up a repeat of last season’s final in the first knockout round.
Real came out on top in Paris with a 1-0 win, while they also defeated Klopp’s side 3-1 in the 2017-18 final – and 3-1 on aggregate in the 2020-21 quarter-finals.
“The first thing that we can say about this draw is it is proper Champions League. This is a tie that speaks for itself and one that we should all be excited about,” Klopp told Liverpool’s website.
“I know we have played Real Madrid in a couple of recent finals, but it is not so often that our two clubs have met in a two-legged tie, so now we can look forward to this happening.”
Real Madrid are the most successful European side of all time, winning 14 Champions League and European Cup titles, including five in the last nine years.
Liverpool last won the prestigious trophy in 2018-19 for their sixth title – a tally only bettered by Real, and also AC Milan who have won it seven times.
“Real’s European record is the best around. We know this. But we also know that ours is not too bad. On top of this, we know that we have Anfield and everyone knows what this means,” Klopp said.
“It is a really good draw. A really exciting draw. The games themselves are still a few months away but it does not take a great deal of imagination to think what the atmosphere will be like at both games.
“There is a lot of football to be played before this, of course, so we will focus on each game as it comes but yes, this draw has given us something special to look forward to.”
Liverpool have got off to a slow start this season and drew Real Madrid after finishing second in their group behind Napoli.
In the Premier League, Klopp’s side have won just five of their 13 matches to date and sit in eighth place, 15 points off top.
But Real Madrid director Emilio Butragueno, a two-time UEFA Cup winner during his playing days, insisted there’s no risk of the Reds being underestimated.
“The game is in February. They’re a winning team and a winning club. They have a stadium that really gets behind them,” Butragueno told the Real Madrid website.
“They’re going to be a very tough opponent, we know that, but we’re Real Madrid and everyone understands what this competition means to us.
“We’re the champions and we’re going to enjoy it as much as we can. The second leg is at the Bernabeu in front of our fans, we all know that means and so does everyone in Europe. We’ll do everything we can. We believe in our players, and we’ll see what happens”.
PIOLI WARY OF SPURS THREAT
Elsewhere in the draw, Tottenham Hotspur were pitted against AC Milan in a match that will see Spurs boss Antonio Conte return to his native Italy.
Conte led Milan’s rivals Inter to the Serie A title as recently as 2020/21, getting the better of his Rossoneri counterpart Stefano Pioli.
“Conte is a great coach, who has won a lot everywhere. He gives a clear identity and a great mentality to his team,” Pioli said at a press conference.
“Tottenham is very compact and tidy with very strong individuals, like (Harry) Kane, (Heung-min) Son, (Dejan) Kulusevski, (Ivan) Perisic, with many who know Milan and Italian football. On paper I think it could be a balanced challenge.”
Milan have already faced English opposition this season in the group stage, where they lost both their meetings with Chelsea to finish second behind the London club.
“Unbeatable and perfect teams do not exist. We want to play to pass the round, if we have reached this level, it is because we have value and depth,” Pioli said.
“Milan’s numbers against the English are historically negative, we must work to reverse the trend.”