Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Liverpool prepare again to battle Atletico

Liverpool prepare again to battle Atletico

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah shoots and scores a penalty kick during the UEFA Champions League Group B match against Atletico Madrid on October 19. AFP

Liverpool prepare again to battle Atletico

Jurgen Klopp wants to say the right things when it comes to Atletico Madrid and Diego Simeone but there is always an itch he ends up scratching.

Liverpool play Atletico again in the Champions League on Wednesday in a game that this time carries more significance for the Spaniards than the Reds.

Klopp’s team are already five points clear at the top of a group that looked awkward when the draw came out in August.

Atletico are in a scrap, level on four points with Porto, whom they still have to play in Lisbon in the final round.

In theory, the pressure on Liverpool should be reduced and yet this fixture keeps finding a way to irritate the German, to push his buttons and draw reactions he later has to rephrase or retract.

This will be the fourth meeting between the sides in the past 18 months. Atletico claimed victory in a thrilling knock-out tie last year after winning 1-0 at home, and 3-2 after extra-time away.

Liverpool then won by the same scoreline in Madrid last month, capitalising on a red card for Antoine Griezmann and a penalty, scored by the blistering Mohamed Salah.

For the last decade, Klopp has been one of the game’s most charming characters and charismatic voices.

He is not a coach that seeks confrontation, either deliberately or desperately, as a technique to get the best out of players. His jabs at Atletico feel out of sync and out of character.

There have been several, but the most notable came after the loss at Anfield last year. “I don’t understand with the quality they have to be honest, that they play this kind of football. I don’t understand that,” Klopp told BT Sport.

“When I see players like Koke, Saul [Niguez], [Marcos] Llorente – they could play proper football but they stand deep and have counter attacks. But they beat us that’s how it is.”

In the first leg, Klopp substituted Sadio Mane, worried about Atletico’s attempts to get him sent off. “I was afraid his opponent would go down if he took a deep breath,” he said.

He noted Atletico’s celebrations at the end.

“I saw a lot of happy faces among their players and staff, but it’s not over,” said Klopp. He also seemed irked by Simeone’s antics on the touchline.

“Wow, that’s energy,” he said. “I hope I can be a little more focused in the second leg.”

After winning in Madrid, a grinning Klopp sarcastically waved down the tunnel at Simeone, who habitually avoids shaking the other coach’s hand.

“I wanted to shake his hand and he was running off,” he said. “I’m also not overly happy with my reaction to be honest.”

Klopp has also stayed true to his more professional instincts, offering generous praise of Atletico and Simeone, if not for their style, then their achievements.

“His teams are always well-organised, world class, so that makes him one of the best coaches,” he said before the first meeting in 2020. Afterwards he said: “Their defence was exceptional.”

And he has tried to smooth over previous comments when they have resurfaced. “I’m not the pope of football,” he said after the last match. “What does it matter what I like?”

To fulfil their obligations with television companies, coaches are required to speak within minutes of the final whistle. In some ways it is incredible more do not err from diplomacy.

There is something about Atletico, though, that wrangles with Klopp, their beliefs about how the game should be played, and won, so different to his that the usual rules seem to get forgotten.

It is perhaps surprising even that against Liverpool, other opponents have not tried an Atletico-like approach.

There is also an irony in finding frustration with Atletico’s negative tactics now, at a time when they are more open than ever under Simeone.

Trying to squeeze Antoine Griezmann, Joao Felix and Luis Suarez into the same team has come at a cost. “We are worried about it and we’re working on it,” Simeone said last month.

Klopp’s impatience is perhaps a compliment to Atletico, to the depths Liverpool had to go to beat them and the battle they know they will face this week.

It is an indication too of the fervour with which Klopp holds his own beliefs and the relentlessness that brings his players along with him.

But perhaps most of all, it is good drama, a healthy, ongoing disagreement between two of the game’s greatest coaches about how best to win.

“It’s not too bad,” said Klopp. “When we see each other we’ll shake hands.”


  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Schools drawn into Manet degree row

    Prime Minister Hun Sen stepped into the Hun Manet-Sam Rainsy war of words over the validity of Manet’s degree from the US Military Academy at West Point, set off by Rainsy’s claims that Manet had received a “second-class degree” or “honorary degree”. Hun

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • NagaWorld protest part of ‘conspiracy’

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Court and police held a joint-press conference on January 4 to clarify details concerning the arrest of nine former employees of the integrated resort NagaWorld and the charges brought against them, saying that the authorities had clear grounds for taking legal action.