Liverpool will seek to extend their sensational European knockout record under Jürgen Klopp when they resume the defence of their Champions League title against Atletico Madrid in the last 16 of the competition.
The Reds have never lost a two-legged continental tie under the boss, winning all the previous 10 en route to reaching the 2015-16 Europa League final and back-to-back Champions League finals in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 at Atletico's Estadio Metropolitano last June to claim the club's sixth European Cup and are now seeking to become the first English club in history to reach three successive Champions League finals.
For more need-to-know pre-match facts and figures, courtesy of club statistician Ged Rea, read on...
In 19 away games in Spain, Liverpool have won seven, drawn five and lost seven.
This is the Reds' fifth successive European campaign in which they have faced Spanish opposition. They have only been eliminated by clubs from Spain twice in the previous 11 two-legged ties.
The last La Liga side to do so was Atletico Madrid in 2009-10, when Los Rojiblancos beat Rafa Benitez's side on away goals in the semi-finals of the Europa League.
Liverpool and Atleti have also met before in the Champions League - drawing 1-1 home and away in the group phase of the 2008-09 edition.
Roberto Firmino has played in 47 of Klopp's 48 European games in charge of the Reds.
The Brazilian has four assists in the Champions League this season - only Hakim Ziyech of Ajax (five) has more.
Firmino has scored more goals away from Anfield (39) than any current Liverpool player - seven more than Mohamed Salah and 10 more than Sadio Mane.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has scored three goals in his last three Champions League games and five in his 11 European appearances for the Reds.
Salah has scored 20 Champions League goals for Liverpool and is the club’s joint third-highest scorer in Europe, alongside Ian Rush. Steven Gerrard tops the list with 41, while Michael Owen has 22.
Salah’s 20 goals in this competition for Liverpool have come in just 33 appearances.
Liverpool have not lost a knockout phase tie in the Champions League since 2008-09, when Chelsea beat them in the quarter-finals.
In European competition, Atletico are unbeaten in their last 13 games at home, winning 11 with two draws.
In 13 matches against English clubs at home, Los Rojiblancos have won seven and drawn five with one defeat.
Only Real Madrid and Barcelona have beaten Atletico in their last 40 matches at Estadio Metropolitano.
Champions League 2019-20 Champions League 2019-20
Liverpool and Atletico Madrid will meet for only the fifth time competitively tonight as their duel for a place in the Champions League quarter-finals begins.
Despite rich respective histories in European football, the clubs have often evaded facing each other directly – with this tie the first since four clashes in the space of 18 months a decade ago.
Atletico have had the better of the previous encounters but Jürgen Klopp’s team head to Estadio Metropolitano having lifted the European Cup there just last June.
Here’s a look back on the four showdowns so far between the Reds and Los Rojiblancos…
Champions League group stage – 2008-09
This double-header at the midway point of the Champions League group stage 11 seasons ago could easily have been about one issue and one man – Fernando Torres, the boyhood Atletico fanatic and striking sensation who had left Estadio Vicente Calderon to make Anfield his new home in the summer of 2007.
However, a hamstring injury suffered by El Niño on international duty deprived the meetings of the marksman. The presence of former Reds Luis Garcia and Florent Sinama-Pongolle in Atletico’s squad meant there was no lack of alternative subplots, but the two games were primarily about Group D supremacy, both teams having defeated Marseille and PSV Eindhoven to arrive at matchday three with maximum points.
Summer signing Robbie Keane was chosen to fill in for Torres as Rafael Benitez’s lone striker in the showdown at the Calderon, and demonstrated why in the 14th minute, notching the second goal of his Liverpool career from a Steven Gerrard through ball.
Coached by the much-travelled Mexican Javier Aguirre, the hosts gradually battled their way back into the game with the help of a certain Sergio Aguero – aged just 20 at the time – who was substituted on for Garcia at the break.
When the equaliser did arrive with seven minutes left, though, it was a more familiar duo responsible for it, former Manchester United forward Diego Forlan teeing up Portuguese midfielder Simao Sabrosa – who had scored one of the goals that ended Liverpool’s defence of the Champions League in 2005-06 while playing for Benfica – to beat Pepe Reina.
The return fixture at Anfield merely provided further proof of how well-matched Benitez and Aguirre’s sides appeared to be.
Future Liverpool midfielder Maxi Rodriguez controlled a cross and skipped past Jamie Carragher in one swift motion to put Los Colchoneros – the mattress makers – ahead, only for Gerrard to make it 1-1 by winning and scoring a 95th-minute penalty.
At that point Atletico had a slight edge in the battle for top spot courtesy of their marginally superior goal difference, but it was the Reds who progressed as group winners after capitalising on the Spaniards’ goalless draw at Marseille on matchday six.
It was the beginning of the end for Atletico’s Champions League dream that season, although the blow of their last-16 loss to FC Porto was perhaps softened by watching Liverpool devastate their city rivals Real Madrid 4-0 at Anfield and 5-0 on aggregate. The Reds subsequently fell to Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea in a helter-skelter quarter-final which ended 7-5 in the Londoners’ favour.
Europa League semi-final – 2009-10
Much had changed by the time the clubs crossed swords again in the last four of the Europa League a year-and-a-half later.
With Atletico now in the care of future Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores, both teams had entered the last 32 of the newly rebranded tournament after being eliminated from the Champions League group phase.
Liverpool made their way to the semis by disposing of Unirea Urziceni, Lille and Benfica, while Atletico earned their spot via defeats of Galatasaray, Sporting CP and Valencia.
Torres missed out after undergoing knee surgery, fate sadly robbing Liverpool’s No.9 of his emotional homecoming for a second time – and robbing Benitez of a player that banged in 22 goals in 32 appearances that term. The Spanish international was certainly missed at the Vicente Calderon, where Forlan’s scrambled early goal provided Flores’ men with a crucial first-leg advantage.
If the opening encounter was lacking in thrills, the rematch at Anfield was full of them. Alberto Aquilani beat a young David de Gea to take the tie to extra-time, whereupon Yossi Benayoun’s emphatic finish seemingly had Liverpool en route to that season’s final in Hamburg – only for Forlan to smash one high into Reina’s net in the 103rd minute.
“The team tried everything but just couldn’t make it,” sighed the goalkeeper afterwards. “We made one mistake and they scored the goal.”
Los Rojiblancos proceeded to lift the trophy by beating Roy Hodgson’s Fulham 2-1 in the final, inevitably sealed by yet another extra-time Forlan strike.
Liverpool visit Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday night, with the last-16 first leg scheduled to kick off at 8pm GMT.
The match will be shown live on BT Sport in the UK.
Extended highlights will be available on LFCTV GO from 11pm GMT.
For more information on broadcasting schedules where you are, click here.
Liverpool FC Women were eliminated from the FA Cup with a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea on Monday night.
Guro Reiten’s 25th-minute goal proved the difference at Kingsmeadow and ended the Reds’ cup campaign at the fifth-round stage.
Solid defensive organisation from Liverpool denied Chelsea the opportunity to convert their early control of possession into anything more meaningful, although Anke Preuss saved from Ji-So Yun with her feet in the 19th minute.
Sophie Bradley-Auckland then cleared off the line from Reiten, but the Norway international put the hosts ahead midway through the first half with a back-post finish.
The Reds responded well to that setback, though, and a counter-attack involving Melissa Lawley and Niamh Charles nearly resulted in Ashley Hodson being found, only for Charles’ pass to be intercepted.
Midway through the second half, Charles’ touch took the ball away from her after Jemma Purfield had found Ashley Hodson with a direct pass over the top, with Magdalena Eriksson heading Purfield’s subsequent cross away.
Eriksson then nodded Maren Mjelde’s free-kick narrowly wide at the other end before Ann-Katrin Berger saved Charles’ powerful drive from range as Vicky Jepson’s side bowed out of the competition with a narrow loss.
Liverpool FC Women: Preuss, Jane (Robe, 46), Bradley-Auckland, Fahey, Purfield, Bailey, Furness, Linnett (Murray, 79), Lawley, Charles, Hodson (Clarke, 74).
Unused substitutes: Foster, Rodgers.
Jake Cain’s superb stoppage-time strike earned Liverpool U23s a 2-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday night.
A strong young Reds team spent the majority of the Premier League 2 fixture at a blustery St George’s Park on top, and merited the lead given to them by Joe Hardy’s goal shortly before the hour.
However, having levelled through Chem Campbell’s 72nd-minute penalty against the run of play, Wolves threatened to snatch all three points as they applied pressure on the goal of Vitezslav Jaros, who made his first start of the season following an elbow injury.
But Cain, one of a number of Neil Critchley’s regulars making the return to U23s football following their FA Cup heroics, showcased his technical ability by half-volleying in a late, late winner from 20 yards.
Liverpool made a purposeful start and a sharp one-two with Harvey Elliott earned Curtis Jones a sight of goal inside the first two minutes, only for the captain to scuff his shot wide.
A clear-cut chance arrived soon after for the visitors, with a sliding Leighton Clarkson unable to make the required contact on Neco Williams’ inviting low cross at the back post.
Another slick move ended with Tony Gallacher over-running the ball after he’d collected Pedro Chirivella’s clever pass and strode into the penalty area, before Hardy dragged wide from Elliott’s cushioned chested knock-down.
There was no let-up in tempo or intent from the young Reds, who continued pushing for the elusive opening goal.
Indeed, only the woodwork denied Jones what would have been a fine opener eight minutes before the break.
Chirivella arced a brilliant long-range pass into the skipper who, from an acute angle, clipped a delicate effort past Wolves goalkeeper Andreas Sondergaard that kissed the far post and rebounded to safety.
Elliott twice tested Sondergaard from outside the area - first from open play, then via a free-kick - prior to Liverpool finally, and deservedly, going ahead through Hardy.
Jones fed the onrushing Gallacher down the left and the full-back whipped in a cross that Hardy, on the slide, diverted home at the far post.
It was role reversal soon after as Gallacher found Jones’ surge down the left. The captain’s persistence enabled him to wriggle free of Owen Otasowie and Raphael Nya, before he curled a shot towards the top corner that Sondergaard tipped wide.
The pattern of the match indicated that the game’s second goal would be Liverpool’s too, but Wolves equalised out of nothing 18 minutes from time.
Sepp van den Berg was penalised when Renat Dadashov went down once he’d forced the defender to back into his penalty area, and Campbell duly converted the resulting spot kick.
Buoyed, Wolves then chased a winner, with Jaros parrying Terry Taylor’s powerful drive away and Dadashov hitting the post from a tight angle.
Cain would have the final say, though, the Liverpool midfielder chesting down the ball before dispatching a sweetly-struck shot into the corner.
Liverpool U23s: Jaros, Williams, Hoever, Van den Berg, Gallacher, Chirivella (Dixon-Bonner, 83), Clarkson, Cain, Elliott, Jones, Hardy (Millar, 68).
Unused substitutes: Winterbottom, Boyes, Bearne.
Jürgen Klopp has a near-fully fit squad to choose from for Tuesday's Champions League meeting with Atletico Madrid.
A 21-man Liverpool group landed in Spain on Monday evening ahead of their last-16 first leg at Estadio Metropolitano.
And Klopp earlier confirmed that he has no new injury concerns to consider, with every player who featured in the weekend victory over Norwich City in contention again.
“Good, exactly the same. All on board and available, cool,” the manager told Liverpoolfc.com, when asked how the squad looks fitness-wise.
That leaves Xherdan Shaqiri (calf) and Nathaniel Clyne (knee) as the Reds' only senior absentees.
Meanwhile, Klopp will not take the gap of only three days between the win at Carrow Road and the game in Madrid into account when deciding on his team selection.
He continued: “No. There are similarities [in terms of system between Norwich and Atletico] so the Norwich game was, I would say, really good preparation for the game but Atletico is a very physical team, very well organised and all that stuff: counter-attack, a lot of individual quality, good set-pieces.
“It’s not a massive turnaround, it’s just the job to do and we like that. Thank God we are kind of used to that meanwhile and we are really looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, Atletico could be boosted by the return of striker Diego Costa, who has been out since November with a back injury.
"He's improving. We've talked about it," boss Diego Simeone told journalists on Monday evening. "He's training with a lot of enthusiasm and he's in the group of 19 players that are concentrated and in contention for tomorrow."
Jose Gimenez could also make a comeback from a muscle issue, with the defender on the bench for Friday night's 2-2 draw at Valencia.
However, Joao Felix has been ruled out for the visit of the European champions, along with Kieran Trippier and Hector Herrera.
On the encounter, Simeone continued: "We are where we are and we have a tough opponent in front of us.
"The stadium will be at fever pitch, just like it will be for the return leg [at Anfield]. Our stadium will help us a lot, but the only thing that counts is what happens on the pitch.
"When the game starts, anything can happen. I see optimism and desire within the squad."
Valencia 2-2 Atletico Madrid (February 14): Oblak, Arias, Savic, Felipe, Lodi, Partey, Koke, Llorente, Saul, Vitolo, Correa.
Norwich City 0-1 Liverpool (February 15): Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Salah, Firmino.
The Liverpool squad took a walk around Estadio Metropolitano on Monday evening ahead of their Champions League last-16 tie at Atletico Madrid.
The Reds return to the venue of their triumph in the competition a little over eight months ago for Tuesday night's first-leg encounter with Diego Simeone's side.
Take a look at their pre-match stroll of the stadium in the gallery below...
Photos by Andrew Powell
Trent Alexander-Arnold insists Liverpool's focus on Tuesday night's encounter at Atletico Madrid massively overrides any emotions about the return to a memorable location.
The Reds will be back at the venue where they lifted the Champions League trophy a little over eight months ago for a last-16 encounter with Diego Simeone's side.
While Estadio Metropolitano will forever hold a special place in Alexander-Arnold's heart, the full-back stressed how he and his teammates are only thinking about the present day ahead of the fixture.
Speaking at a press conference to preview the affair, the No.66 said: "Obviously it holds good memories for us where a lot of our dreams came true, but for us we can’t focus too much on the past.
"We’ve got a job to do tomorrow. Our aim is to hopefully win these type of trophies and keep going in each type of competition as much as possible.
"Our next step is to try and get a result tomorrow and we know it will be difficult. That's where our focus is at and we're not focused on what happened in June, we’re focused on what's going to happen tomorrow."
Read on for a summary of what Alexander-Arnold told journalists in the Spanish capital...
On Cafu's recent praise about him being able to win the Ballon d'Or...
Massive praise from a legend of the game and it’s something I am really thankful for and I have to give thanks to him for them words. I try and be the best player I can be. It's a team game, so it’s about the players that I have around me, the players I have in training, the manager, the support I have all around me that enables me to be as good as I can be. That's the focus for me, taking it a game at a time. Accolades may or may not come in the future, it doesn't really faze me as much as maybe it does other players. For me, especially, it’s about winning the team trophies.
On Joe Gomez's recent form...
Amazing. I think we seen it even last season, we’ve seen it since he's come into the club. Obviously he's probably struggled with injuries and not played as much as he’d have wanted to. At the start of the season he was probably frustrated that he wasn't getting as many minutes as he’d have wanted to, but he's been patient. He was amazing in training throughout the course of the season and once he got his chance, he took it with both hands. I think that’s been the case with all the centre-backs that have partnered Virg so far this season. All three of them have really took their chance and been world class every time they've come in. You see it every day in training with all four of them, they apply themselves and it’s no surprise to us that when they are given that chance they perform like they do day in, day out.
On whether last season's success motivates him more to retain the Champions League...
We want to achieve as much as possible. We want to make the most of it while we can, so for us it’s about trying to do the things that we did last June. In terms of changing the focus, nothing has really changed for us because we go into every game with the same mentality that we respect the opponent as much as we can. We understand that we're a really good side and that if our mentality is right and commitment is right in the game then we have a chance. Whether that be in any competition we take part in, we’re confident going into the game.
On the squad's ability to break teams down...
We’ve adapted as a team over the last two years especially. Many different teams that we're coming up against, different tactics, we’re able to counter it and adapt during the game at half-time and things like that. We came up against a similar formation that we’re going to face tomorrow on Saturday at Norwich. We understand what we're going to face, it'll be very difficult but we're going into it with a game plan. We know what we need to do and hopefully we’ll come away with a result that puts us into a good position going back to Anfield.
On Liverpool's mindset in knockout matches in the Champions League...
The best players in the world want to get to these stages, they want to get to finals and they want to be winning trophies – and so do the best teams. If we want to be known as one of the best teams in the world or be competing as one of the best teams in the world, then we have to be getting to the latter stages. We believe we can do it, we know that there are tough games that come our way – we've seen that over the last two years. But we’ve managed to overcome a lot of hurdles, different types of games, different advantages and disadvantages and we know that we're capable of doing that. The experiences we’ve got from the last two seasons, especially from the Champions League, have really educated us on how to get far in these competitions. That's not obviously saying just because we’ve been to two finals in a row, we're going to get there again this year because it's difficult and it's not how football [works] and things can happen. But in terms of the things that we’ve learned, we understand what it takes. We know that not being at 100 per cent, you will get punished for that. We know that we have to be at 100 per cent all the time.
On how reassuring it is to have Alisson Becker behind him...
I think a lot of people are running out of words for him. But [it's an] unbelievable feeling to have him behind us. When you’ve got a lot of confidence in your goalkeeper, it's something you can’t really overlook and you can't really take for granted. A world-class goalkeeper, probably the best in the world. I think we’re really grateful to have him in our side – he helps us out. From the time he's been injured to coming back and keeping so many clean sheets, he's showed game in, game out that he can make the hard saves look easy.
Watch the unseen story of Liverpool's latest away-day win in the Premier League with Inside Norwich.
Sadio Mane came off the bench and dispatched a clinical late finish that secured a 1-0 success over Daniel Farke's team on Saturday.
Yet another victory stretched the Reds' lead at the top of the Premier League to an astonishing 25 points.
Inside Norwich takes you behind the scenes before, during and after the action at Carrow Road...
Jürgen Klopp has offered a detailed analysis of the threat Atletico Madrid will pose to Liverpool ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League tie.
The holders visit Estadio Metropolitano for the first leg of their last-16 clash with Diego Simeone’s team, and the boss is prepared for a testing evening in the Spanish capital.
Liverpoolfc.com caught up with Klopp on board the team flight to Spain - read on for his thoughts on Atletico, the opportunity provided by the Champions League and the Reds’ return to the scene of last season’s European triumph…
On what he expects from Atletico…
A lot, actually. It’s pretty clear when you are 10 points behind Barcelona and Real Madrid you cannot catch both, so the championship is probably done. Qualification, not 100 per cent sure. And Atletico are like us, chasing that trophy for years and years and years, were already twice in the final. It’s something else. The league, I don’t say they struggled, it was a transition period. Really massive players for the club [left] – Godin, Gabi, Griezmann, Juanfran – and they had to replace them. But they do well. I think they will qualify for the Champions League again, which is good, and then next year they are a step ahead. We expect them to try to use this chance. It’s an equal game; they play at home, we have to go there but we try to use the experience from the past.
On Simeone’s side’s impressive home record…
They create an atmosphere and they use the atmosphere. And it’s a very aggressive team, the whole approach is aggressive, the coach is very animated, I would say! We have to be ready for that, for sure.
On whether Atletico’s injury issues have affected his pre-match analysis…
Somebody sent me something that Joao Felix cannot play. Whoever will play in the middle, Vitolo or someone else. Probably in three weeks when we play the next game we’ll have absolutely no clue who they play because then they are all back and they have a massive squad. But a few key players are always involved – the last line, full-backs can change a little bit. Analysis is more about the idea they have, the style of play, the plan or path they follow than individual players. That doesn’t change. The way they defend is consistent for as long as Diego is there. That means it will never change. And the offensive things improve, of course. Defensively, it’s the same and it’s very good – that’s why they stick to it.
On the excitement felt by everyone at Liverpool due to the Champions League being back…
You have to ask the boys, I don’t know exactly. It’s always like this, you can see that. The Champions League, it’s difficult to find the right words, it’s not a must competition, it’s a can, it’s an opportunity. We were twice in the final, we know that, but that’s exceptional, nobody could expect that for sure we will go for the third time to the final. We always did it like we do it now: we are really looking forward to it, we try to enjoy it, we like playing in different countries, in different stadiums, this stadium in particular! And we just do our best and we know ‘get a result which gives us a chance at Anfield and then let’s try it’. We never felt any kind of pressure in the Champions League, it was always just great to be part of and hopefully we can see that again.
On how returning to the Metropolitano will feel…
I don’t know exactly. We go there tonight obviously, which helps, we are in a different dressing room because we had the home dressing room for the Champions League final so that’s already different. It’s just a positive feeling, 100 per cent. Last time it was a massive game and this time it’s a massive game, the only difference is there will probably be more Atletico supporters in the stadium but that’s not too big. It’s nice that we can come back that early, so all good.
Jürgen Klopp is in no doubt about what Naby Keita can bring to the Liverpool team when he gets opportunities.
The midfielder made his first start since Boxing Day in Saturday’s 1-0 win at Norwich City and impressed as the Reds extended their lead of the Premier League to 25 points.
Competition for places in Klopp’s XI has increased due to the return of several players from injury in recent weeks, with a near-full bill of health for his squad.
Discussing Keita and the added depth currently at his disposal, as a 21-man group set off to face Atletico Madrid, the boss told Liverpoolfc.com: “Naby is a brilliant player.
“We only have to make sure we have only brilliant players, by the way! That’s sometimes the problem of the players; when you play, you play really well and why should we change?
“I never doubt Naby. Of course he needs games, that’s clear, that’s why he gets games when he is fit. If you look at when he was fit and how often he played then, not so bad. That’s the situation.
“Thank God, we have a squad that offers us different solutions. We had injuries but nobody speaks about it because we never suffered from it. That is good.
“For the players when they come back, rhythm-wise, look at Joel [Matip] and Dejan [Lovren]. They both played sensationally for us and now Joel was not in the squad [at Norwich]. That’s really, really hard.
“When they are all fit, this is the situation – that’s for Naby the same and for others.”
Liverpool departed Merseyside on Monday ahead of their Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid - and our photographer was with the team at John Lennon Airport.
Take a look at the European champions' departure below...
Photos by Andrew Powell
Liverpool have no fresh injury concerns ahead of their Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid, Jürgen Klopp has confirmed.
A 21-man Reds squad departed Merseyside on Monday afternoon bound for Spain, with the first leg of their last-16 tie to take place at Estadio Metropolitano on Tuesday.
And Klopp reported on board the team flight that all the players he had at his disposal for the weekend win at Norwich City are in contention to face Diego Simeone’s side. Xherdan Shaqiri and Nathaniel Clyne remain sidelined.
“Good, exactly the same. All on board and available, cool,” the boss told Liverpoolfc.com, when asked how the squad is looking fitness-wise.
The fact the match in Madrid comes just three days after the victory at Carrow Road will not be a factor in Klopp’s decision-making process regarding selection, meanwhile.
The manager said: “No. There are similarities [in terms of system between Norwich and Atletico] so the Norwich game was, I would say, really good preparation for the game but Atletico is a very physical team, very well organised and all that stuff: counter-attack, a lot of individual quality, good set-pieces.
“It’s not a massive turnaround, it’s just the job to do and we like that. Thank God we are kind of used to that meanwhile and we are really looking forward to it.”
Liverpool have named a 21-man travelling squad for Tuesday's Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid.
The holders depart John Lennon Airport on Monday ahead of the last-16 first leg at Estadio Metropolitano.
Travelling squad: Alisson, Fabinho, Van Dijk, Wijnaldum, Lovren, Milner, Keita, Firmino, Mane, Salah, Gomez, Adrian, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Minamino, Lallana, Robertson, Origi, Matip, Kelleher, Alexander-Arnold.
Liverpool trained at Melwood on Monday ahead of the Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid - check out 32 photos of their session now.
Jürgen Klopp oversaw the workout, which took place before the holders' flight to Spain for Tuesday's last-16 first leg at Estadio Metropolitano.
Our photographer was at Melwood too, and provided the gallery below.
Photos by Andrew Powell
Liverpool are in line to become front runners in the chase for Todd Cantwell after the Norwich midfielder impressed Anfield chiefs in his side's defeat at Carrow Road on Saturday.
Despite the Canaries sitting rock bottom of the Premier League table, the 21-year-old has starred in his first season in the top flight and has emerged as a key player for Daniel Farke's outfit.
But according to the Athletic, it is Liverpool who have ramped up their interest in Cantwell having now twice this term shown strong performances against the Reds.
Full story: MailOnline
This story has been reproduced from the media. It does not necessarily represent the position of Liverpool Football Club.
Liverpool U23s boss Neil Critchley will have no problem in bringing his players back down to earth as they visit Wolverhampton Wanderers in Premier League 2 on Monday night.
After their heroics in representing the first team during the dramatic FA Cup fourth-round replay win over Shrewsbury Town at a sold-out Anfield, Critchley's regulars are set to return to PL2 action.
Kick-off at St George's Park is at 7pm GMT and you can watch the game live on LFCTV.
A much-changed young Reds side beat Arsenal 3-0 on February 1, and Critchley has insisted that his usual squad will be ready to go again versus Wolves.
"For me personally, I don’t think it is difficult [to switch back], no, because again it comes down to the type of environment you create and the culture, the message and what gets spoken, and the type of people you are,” Critchley told Liverpoolfc.com.
"When our young players have the opportunity to train with the senior players they train exactly the same way, whoever is in the session.
"They behave the same way because they have just got a humility, a hunger and a desire to improve and they love football.
"It doesn't matter if you are playing at the Academy, away from home or at Anfield. The circumstances doesn’t matter, they want to do their best all the time.
"We go again and if we drop below the standards that we expect then they’ll be getting told in no uncertain terms.”
With the exception of Caoimhin Kelleher, the U23s' teamsheet against the Gunners showed 10 changes from the youthful side that beat Shrewsbury at Anfield a few days earlier.
And that, Critchley believes, is indicative of the good work being done day in, day out in Kirkby.
"I promise you I was just as proud and delighted with the Arsenal performance as I was with Shrewsbury,” he added.
"It was just at the Shrewsbury game there was 50-odd thousand more people there to share that with you, but the feeling I had after the Arsenal game was just the same - I thought the boys were fantastic that day.
"That made it even more difficult for me to leave some of them boys out who were not even in the squad against Shrewsbury. That was a horrible thing to do, but it’s part of the job, I get it.
"I think there are lots of the boys in a good place at the moment and we need to make sure they know why that is, why they are in a good place and we carry that on.
"That’s always what we work on, on a daily basis in training."
It’s Saturday May 26, 2018, and the Liverpudlian world is orbiting around Kiev.
Thousands of Reds are inside the NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium, while legions watch the Champions League final from Shevchenko Park and the bars within the sprawl of the Ukrainian capital.
Millions more tune in from wherever they are around the globe; factors such as time difference considered an irrelevance as Jürgen Klopp’s side are willed on by fans from Toxteth to Tashkent.
It’s a sweltering, early-summer mid-afternoon when kick-off arrives in the Caribbean; when the wait for Liverpool versus Real Madrid to begin is finally over, and one holidaymaker has planned ahead.
He may be more than 9,000 kilometres away from the action, but he wants to support his team in their most significant match in a generation and has made arrangements to ensure he can do so.
This is no ordinary traveller, however. No ordinary follower of Liverpool FC.
This is Divock Origi.
“I was in the Dominican Republic with my mum. We were staying in a nice hotel and the guy who worked there was a Liverpool fan, so he put up a screen in the cafe and I was just watching it hoping that we would win as a fan,” the Belgian reveals, during LFCTV’s forthcoming feature Divock Origi: In My Life.
By his own admission, the previous season had been ‘difficult’ for Origi.
He had played no part in Liverpool’s journey to the Champions League showpiece, and intended to take stock of his career in the aftermath of a challenging loan spell at Wolfsburg.
The possibility of returning to Anfield was, though, very much involved in his thought process.
“At that stage, I’d just missed the World Cup, I’d had a difficult season, so I needed to reset and put everything off,” Origi explains.
“But that was one of my thoughts because I think a couple of months before then, in January, I almost came back to Liverpool. That almost happened so the thought was there, but not 100 per cent yet at that moment.”
The term ‘fairy-tale’ barely does justice to what the subsequent 12 months would bring.
A year later, Origi was not watching Liverpool compete in European club football’s biggest game on television.
Instead, he was playing – and, of course, scoring – as the Reds overcame Tottenham Hotspur to exorcise the painful memories of defeat in Kiev.
Origi’s unerring, trophy-sealing finish late on in Madrid was only made possible by the miraculous semi-final comeback against Barcelona. Naturally, he netted twice in that, too.
So, if someone had told him what was to come as he watched the 2018 final in a hotel on the other side of the world, would Origi have believed it possible?
“The crazy thing is, I remember texting the coach [Klopp] after the game [in Kiev],” the 24-year-old recalls.
“I didn’t want to say many words, but used the bicep emoji to say ‘keep strong, keep on going’ and I said ‘we are going to be back next season’.
“That text never went through, but in my head I said ‘we’, as if I was in it. I don’t even know if the manager knows, but the text never went through.
“In the end I came back and ended up scoring in the final, so that was quite symbolic. Maybe it was fate, definitely.”
Watch Divock Origi: In My Life on LFCTV and LFCTV GO soon.
The M30 motorway was recently diverted right through the middle of what was once the pitch at Atletico Madrid's former home, the partially demolished Estadio Vicente Calderon.
Their new home, Estadio Metropolitano, was, of course, the final stop on Liverpool’s journey to a sixth European Cup last season, but Atletico had been the ones dreaming of lifting Ol’ Big Ears at the impressive modern arena until Juventus imposed a diversion of their own with a dramatic second-leg comeback in the last 16.
This year, the Metropolitano is a waypoint for both clubs, with Tuesday night’s first leg there going some way towards deciding whether it is Diego Simeone’s side or Jürgen Klopp’s holders who carry on along the road to the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, the venue for this year’s Champions League final.
La Liga runners-up in each of the last two seasons, Los Rojiblancos are currently sat fourth in the Spanish top flight, finished second behind Juventus in Champions League Group D and were eliminated from the Copa del Rey by third-tier outfit Cultural Leonesa last month.
Their outstanding record at the Metropolitano and established habit of producing on the big occasions under Simeone will make them a fearsome obstacle tomorrow evening.
“That is the thing Atletico fans are clinging to,” explains journalist Dermot Corrigan, who has spent the last decade in the Spanish capital working for The Independent and the Irish Examiner among others.
“That, under Simeone, no-one can motivate a team or set a team up to scrap and fight and ruffle feathers in big games as much as Atletico. They’ve been great at it in Champions League matches, going back to Chelsea [a semi-final in 2013-14] or Barcelona [quarter-finals in 2013-14 and 2015-16], or when Arsenal came over for the Europa League semi-final in 2018; it was 1-0 but they really steamrollered them.
“They’re hoping with their hearts more than their heads that the form book will go out the window and they can lift themselves for one big game, then head to Anfield and see what happens.”
Atletico’s squad was completely transformed last summer after the departures of elite performers Antoine Griezmann, Lucas Hernandez and Rodri plus stalwarts Diego Godin, Juanfran and Filipe Luis was followed by an influx of new faces headed up by Portuguese starlet Joao Felix. The stylistic shift signalled by those changes remains in progress, according to Corrigan.
“This year was even more of a revolution, because they had made such an effort to try to win the Champions League at their own stadium last May,” the La Liga expert continues.
“Financially they made a huge effort to keep Griezmann and hang on to ageing guys like Godin and Filipe Luis – give them one more year so that team can finally get its hands on the Champions League. When Cristiano Ronaldo intervened with that hat-trick for Juventus, it didn’t happen, and there was a real end-of-an-era feeling.
“Simeone doesn’t like the idea that they can’t play, or that he can’t coach teams that play good football, so every summer they sign creative players – going back to people like Yannick Carrasco or Thomas Lemar – who can go into the team and add a little craft on top of the ruggedness. Through the autumn they try to achieve that, but as the bigger games come around they often go back to basics and try to dig it out.”
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone
Considering they’ve won two Europa Leagues and reached two Champions League finals under Simeone, going back to basics is not necessarily a bad thing for Atletico in a European context, especially when faced with a Liverpool side who share many of the same hard-running characteristics, as Klopp recognised when the draw was made in December.
“Different styles and slightly different organisation, of course, but both are ready for intensity and that makes it pretty tough for both,” noted the Best FIFA Men’s Coach for 2019.
Lately Atletico have been hobbled, quite literally, by an injury crisis that has taken out Kieran Trippier and almost the entire front line – Felix, Alvaro Morata and Diego Costa – with a question mark still hanging over that trio’s fitness for Tuesday evening’s game, though Morata featured for the final quarter of Friday’s 2-2 draw at Valencia.
Simeone has reacted by largely sticking with his preferred 4-4-2 formation, using midfielders Vitolo and Angel Correa as makeshift forwards.
“In the Super Copa de Espana [held in Saudi Arabia with a new four-team knockout format last month] against Barcelona they shocked everyone; Correa did really well, they went for Barça in the last 15 minutes and ripped them apart,” says Corrigan.
“They ended up knocking Barça out, which was a big deal for them and effectively got Ernesto Valverde [Barcelona coach] sacked. It shows that on those bigger occasions when it’s really on the line, Simeone still has that connection with the players and can get that bit extra out of them.
“Three at the back was another thing they thought of doing this season, to play with wing-backs, because Trippier and Renan Lodi – the other full-back they signed in the summer – are really attacking. But that experiment didn’t come off so I’d be really surprised if they don’t go four at the back, keep it tight, maybe play an extra body in midfield.
“They’ve a lot of guys who can play in different positions, that’s something Simeone is pretty good at. He will have some kind of plan to deal with Liverpool, no doubt, but it will be a defensive one.”
Atletico's Estadio Metropolitano
Kopites will relish returning to the scene of the biggest knees-up they’ve enjoyed in a generation, but the Metropolitano will be a very different place with all but 3,328 of its 68,000 seats given over to Atletico fans keen to reaffirm that it’s their home; a fortress where the 10-time champions of Spain have lost just once this season and only five times in total since its 2017 unveiling.
“I was at the Champions League final and it was such a British occasion, it was a really good atmosphere and the majority of fans on both sides had a great weekend, but this will be different,” adds Corrigan.
“They really make a good effort to get people to the stadium early, they ramp up the music, play AC/DC and Nirvana and really get people’s juices flowing. Simeone will be off his seat and geeing everyone up, he’ll be running after every ball, it wouldn’t surprise me if he went head-to-head with Klopp at some stage. He’ll do what he can to make it as gnarly as possible.
“Again, that’s what they’re clinging to, the idea they can turn it into a battle, and the fans are a big part of that. Some of the best games I’ve been to for atmosphere in Spain are Atletico ones. The Metropolitano is probably not quite as intimidating as the Calderon, but the vibe has translated pretty well considering it’s a modern stadium.”
That’s not to say that the world champions and their figurehead will be unwelcome visitors, though.
“Klopp is very popular here,” concludes Corrigan. “People like his demeanour, his enthusiasm, his energy, he will be very well received by the media and by fans as well. There’s a connection between Liverpool and Spain going back over the years to Fernando Torres, Rafael Benitez and everybody. It’s just the team that they’re frightened of!”
Watch Liverpool's pre-match press conference live from Estadio Metropolitano from 6.30pm GMT on Monday.
Jürgen Klopp and a member of his squad will face the media in Spain ahead of Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg tie with Atletico Madrid.
The briefing is scheduled to begin at 6.30pm GMT - return to this page then to watch it live via YouTube.