MADRID: Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone heaped praise on Liverpool ahead of their Champions League last 16, first leg tie, saying they will go down in history for their form this season.
Liverpool return to the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, scene of June’s Champions League triumph over Tottenham Hotspur, unbeaten in the Premier League after 26 games.
Atletico, meanwhile, have endured a stuttering season in La Liga, where they sit fourth and are locked in a battle to qualify for next season’s competition.
“I remember Klopp’s (Borussia) Dortmund, who are similar to Liverpool. They have that competitiveness, but the players they have mean they play in a different way," said Simeone.
“We’ve always spoken about great sides throughout time and this Liverpool side will go down in history. I really like this Liverpool team because they’re direct but they can change the way they play too and I admire that."
Atletico come into the match after a 2-2 draw at Valencia on Friday, while Liverpool won 1-0 at Norwich City on Saturday.
“We’re facing a great side with a different kind of coach (to Valencia), which plays on the counter, with excellent positioning throughout and has managed to develop each year he’s been at the club," said Simeone.
“Despite losing (Brazil playmaker Philippe) Coutinho (to Barcelona in 2018), the side got stronger and that says a great deal about the club and the players who play for them.”
Simeone will be without injured Portugal forward Joao Felix but welcomes back Diego Costa, who has not played since November because of a hernia. The Spain forward faced Liverpool four times during his spell in England with Chelsea, scoring twice.
“He’s getting better and has been training really well; you can see what it means to him. He’ll be in the squad of 19 players for tomorrow’s game and has a chance of playing,” Simeone said.
Atletico keeper Jan Oblak acknowledged that Liverpool were favourites to win the tie, but added that his team still believed they could progress.
“I think that a side which pretty much hasn't lost a game for the last year is (rightly) favourite,” Oblak said.
“But this doesn’t mean we’ll not put up a fight and allow them to do what they want.
“We want to play our best game of the season and be well in it when it comes to the second leg, but we know we’ll have to be at our best against a side like Liverpool.
“Anything can happen in terms of result and there’s not much point in thinking about what can or can’t happen, rather that we want to play as well as we can.”