London: Following up a tremendous feat can sometimes be harder than the original achievement.
That is the task awaiting Liverpool and coach Jurgen Klopp at the Anfield side set out on another campaign in the Champions League.
The Reds lifted the trophy in Madrid last June by defeating fellow Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur. But now they know they have a target on their backs as they look to follow Real Madrid in retaining the trophy.
Klopp has warned his men that this season will be even tougher now that they are the champions. Liverpool lead the English Premier League by five points and a 100 per cent record so far this season. Klopp will lead his men out in their opening game against Napoli on Tuesday at the Stadio San Paolo and he is under no illusions that they will be given an easy ride just to get out of a group that also contains Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg and Belgian outfit Genk.
The German believes Liverpool face a daunting task to make it to the final in Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium — a venue where they won the 2005 Champions League with an astonishing comeback against AC Milan.
Napoli are expected to pose the sternest test to Liverpool. 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.
“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,” Klopp said.
“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.”
— With agencies