Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (centre) takes part in a training session ahead of their Champions League match on Monday. Agence France-Pressee
Jurgen Klopp has warned Liverpool that retaining the Champions League will be even harder than their incredible march to victory in Madrid last season.
Klopp’s side start their bid to win a seventh European Cup with a trip to Napoli for their Group E opener on Tuesday.
The Reds have reached the last two Champions League finals, beating Tottenham in the Spanish capital in June after losing to Real Madrid 12 months earlier.
But Klopp believes Liverpool face a daunting task to make it to the final in Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium -- a venue which carries extra resonance for the club after they won the 2005 Champions League with an astonishing comeback against AC Milan in the same stadium.
Before Liverpool can dream of emulating Steven Gerrard and company’s triumph by the banks of the Bosphorus, Klopp knows they will have to run the gauntlet in what he expects to be a fiercely contested tournament.
Napoli are expected to pose the sternest test to Liverpool in a group which also includes unfancied Salzburg and Genk.
Carlo Ancelotti’s team came within a whisker of ending Liverpool’s European campaign in the group stage last season when Alisson Becker’s superb late save denied Arkadiusz Milik to preserve a 1-0 win at Anfield that sent the Reds into the last 16 at the expense of Napoli.
Even if Liverpool should advance to the knockout rounds without so much drama this season, Klopp is wary of the restocked superpowers certain to be lying in wait in the latter stages.
“I will have no problem with it (reaching the final) if it happens again, but at this moment I am not too sure it will,” he said when the draw was made in August.
“We have the same chance like everyone else, but that is all, and I don’t see us, the English teams, dominating. I really think a lot of teams have a good chance.
“Look at the squad Borussia Dortmund has and tell me we are stronger than them. That is incredible. They can make five changes and you think: ‘Really, they didn’t play last week? Why?’ There are a lot of quality teams.
“Juventus will be there, PSG will be there. Real Madrid? Do you think they gave up already? Bayern Munich now finally brought in Perisic and Coutinho which is a big boost.”
While Liverpool will always have a special relationship with the Champions League after the club’s dominance of the competition in the 1970s and 1980s, it is not hard to believe that some die-hard Kopites would happily exchange their continental supremacy for a season of domestic bliss.
Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus insisted on Monday that his team could beat Barcelona regardless of whether Lionel Messi plays or not, but feared however that Dortmund would ‘have to suffer’ when the two sides meet in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Messi is a doubt for Tuesday’s game amid ongoing struggles with a calf injury, but Reus suggested Dortmund could win if they play to their own strengths instead of obsessing over the opponent.
“We have to concentrate on ourselves. We have a good team, we are at home, and we can win the game,” said Reus at a press conference on Monday.
“It will of course be a tough game tomorrow, and we are going to have to suffer a lot,” he said.
Tuesday’s Champions League opener is a baptism of fire for Dortmund as they look to qualify from a fiercely difficult group which pits them against Barcelona, Inter Milan and Slavia Prague.
Yet Reus said his side were confident they could make a perfect start by beating Barcelona on Tuesday.
“It is important to start well in the group. We are confident enough to say that we can win the game,” he said.
“We want to test ourselves against the best clubs. We have to be bold, push forward and try to score goals.”
Both sides come into the game on the back of impressive results against top-four rivals in their domestic leagues at the weekend, as Dortmund thrashed Bayer Leverkusen 4-0, and Barcelona beat Valencia 5-2.
The injured Messi watched that win from the stands, meaning he is still waiting to make his first appearance for Barcelona this season.
Liverpool crushed FC Porto 4-1 in Portugal on Wednesday to win their Champions League quarter-final tie 6-1 on aggregate and march on to a last-four showdown against Barcelona.
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