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We're still looking for PERFECTION; klopp wants to take inspiration from 'most difficult challenge of my life' - and it wasn't the BARCA semi-final.

Byline: IAN DOYLE Chief LFC Writer ian.doyle@trinitymirror.com @IANDOYLESPORT

JURGEN KLOPP admits Liverpool must be "nearly perfect" to maintain the defence of their European crown as he attempts to replicate the most difficult challenge of his managerial career. The Reds are aiming to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit when they entertain Atletico Madrid in their Champions League round of 16 tie tonight.

While Atletico have won only five of their last 20 away games in the competition, only three times during that period have they lost by a scoreline that would eliminate them at Anfield.

And Klopp recalled a key game in last season's triumphant Champions League campaign as a barometer for the task his Liverpool team faces.

"We need to be nearly perfect," said the Reds boss. "That is how it is. We have to attack. We have to create.

"We have to protect like never before in our life and we have to interact and we need Anfield. That is the truth.

"But it is always like this. We played Napoli here at home last season, when we had to win the group, and we had to win 1-0. That was the most difficult challenge I have ever faced in my life.

"An Italian team and you need to win 1-0? How is it that possible? We did it.

"I do not say we will do it again - I do not say it will happen because it happened before - I only say we should give it a proper try. That is all I want, and then we accept what happens.

"If Atletico go through, congratulations. If not, then we will have deserved it."

Liverpool will be bolstered by the return of Andy Robertson and Jordan Henderson, with the skipper having been absent since sustaining a hamstring problem during the closing stages of the defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano three weeks ago.

That was the first in a run of three losses in four that was halted by the 2-1 Premier League triumph at home to Bournemouth on Saturday.

The Reds failed to have a single shot on target against Atletico in the first leg, and can expect similarly obdurate opposition in the return.

But Klopp believes Liverpool's recent domestic matches have given them some practice at coping with packed, well-organised defences.

"You saw it on Saturday," he said. "Bournemouth plays football against each team they play, but against us they shoot one long ball after the other and look for second balls.

"That is what West Ham did. Norwich? Against each team they play football. Against us? We know what is like.

"It is like every game we have played since Atletico is a buildup for now - the pinnacle of these types of games.

"I am not saying they hit every ball over our heads, it is just they are a real block to play against.

"Traditionally, that is Diego Simeone with Atletico. A lot of people admire that and we have to fight against it.

"We need a result so we cannot worry about the situation that they are 1-0 up, so we have to win and they only have to counter-attack."

Liverpool have come from behind to beat both West Mohamed Salah scores the winner against Napoli last season Picture: PETER BYRNE/ PA Ham United and Bournemouth in their most recent two home games.

And Klopp acknowledges that ability to fight will be required against Atletico.

"100%," said. "I expected it and I am fine with it. In the situation we found ourselves, it shows exactly how big it is what the boys did before.

"We didn't do a lot of things wrong to lose the games, but before that we did all the little things right. So, we had to reset a little bit and say, 'These are all the things we have to do.' .' The boys did 100% what was needed.

"The reaction of the boys (against Bournemouth) was brilliant. We had a proper rollercoaster emotionally."

CAPTION(S):

Jurgen Klopp at Melwood yesterday; and, right, addressing the media Pictures: ANDREW POWELL/ LFC/ GETTY

Mohamed Salah scores the winner against Napoli last season Picture: PETER BYRNE/ PA

Mohamed Salah at Melwood
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Author:IAN DOYLE Chief LFC Writer ian.doyle@trinitymirror.com @IANDOYLESPORT
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 11, 2020
Words:698
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