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Pool can turn tables once again, says Van Dijk



Full belief: Virgil van Dijk is sure Liverpool will reach the next round

Full belief: Virgil van Dijk is sure Liverpool will reach the next round

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Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp


Full belief: Virgil van Dijk is sure Liverpool will reach the next round

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk plans to invoke the spirit of last season's semi-final comeback against Barcelona as the Reds seek to keep alive the defence of their Champions League title.

The task against Atletico Madrid is not as extreme as last May's second leg - when they had to overturn a 3-0 deficit - but it will still be a tough ask to break down the visitors, who lead 1-0 from three weeks ago.

Anfield has seen some famous nights over the years, but the 4-0 win over the Catalan giants which set up a sixth European Cup triumph is still fresh in the minds of players and fans alike.

Atletico are likely to come looking to frustrate and take their chances on the counter-attack, and Jurgen Klopp's side can ill-afford to concede again against a team renowned for their defensive capabilities.

"We couldn't give any chances away against Barcelona either," said Van Dijk. "We will go with the same mindset as always. Hopefully we win the game and play good football, but first and foremost we have to deliver a lot of passion and hard work.

"We have to get everyone going from the first second to the last. Things can happen, and they could be the better team, but we want to show why we want to go through with our qualities and deserve to be in the next round.

"Atletico will be tough, they are a fantastic side. They are one of the best in how they play.

"They are aggressive and they have fantastic players who can hurt you on the break too."

Liverpool have reached the final in the last two seasons and with home advantage they are expected to progress to the quarter-finals tonight.

Van Dijk is confident they can handle that expectation after overcoming their mini wobble of three defeats in four matches with victory over Bournemouth.

"The pressure is always there," added the Netherlands captain. "The thing is when you don't get good results - we don't get them too many times - the outside world can talk like we are in a relegation battle.

"It is what it is. We have to deal with that. We have to be grown men about it, take it on the chin and show the world why we deserve to be where we are and why we deserve to still be in the Champions League.

"I think so far we have been sticking to our principles, and whoever is on the pitch involved will give more than 100%.

"Everyone is looking forward to this game and we all want to go through, but we know it is going to be unbelievably difficult."

Meanwhile, Klopp will warn his players again about Atletico's gamesmanship but admits he will not be forced into protecting them against red cards.

In the first leg, Klopp substituted Sadio Mane as he feared he would be dismissed after being targeted by Atletico.

The hosts generated contact with the Senegal international, already on a yellow card, tried to manufacture a foul and then wildly remonstrated with the Polish referee Szymon Marciniak.

Klopp felt he had no option but to remove Mane at half-time as he wanted to keep the tie alive, but knows he cannot afford to hold back at Anfield and expects his players - and Dutch official Danny Makkelie - to handle a repeat of the visitors' antics.

"We spoke about that already but we will probably mention it again," said Klopp. "Yeah, that would help 100% (to have his best players for 90 minutes).

"Sadio did nothing wrong, absolutely nothing, and I still thought in the next situation it will be like this (a red card).

"But if it was always that easy for you to get out the best player of the opponent then there is something wrong with the game.

"You need a referee who is aware of situations like this, we cannot do it by ourselves. We have no influence over that. We have to deal with it.

"We expect a really 'experienced' performance from Atletico, let me say that. In all different departments 'experienced', but we have to deal with that.

"But there is another area of football where we can be better, better than the first game and better than Atletico, but we have to show that."

But no matter what Klopp tells his side, it is the players who have to deal with situations in the heat of battle.

Defender Andy Robertson is confident they are up to the task having already had first-hand experience.

"We've had that one game and over there I felt we dealt with it pretty well," said the Scotland international. "Of course it is frustrating at times but it is not going to change. We don't have control of that. It is up to the referee to deal with it.

"We need to be focused on our game and we can't get annoyed at things we can't control.

"We need to stay clear and calm in our heads, and if we do that it gives us the best possible chance to perform at the highest level.

"Over there has helped us to experience that and hopefully know how to deal with it.

"Hopefully we can show that and stay calm and create the chances we need to create."

Liverpool have been boosted by the return to fitness of captain Jordan Henderson.

The England midfielder has been out since injuring a hamstring in the first leg three weeks ago but trained on Sunday and Monday and is available to take his place in the squad.

"Hendo is ready, but if we do that, I don't know... or maybe I know and I don't say!" said Klopp.

There was less positive news on goalkeeper Alisson, however, who will miss not only this game but Monday's Merseyside derby at Everton with a hip injury which has already sidelined him for two matches.

Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid

Champions League Last-16 (Agg: 0-1)

Anfield, Tonight, 8pm

Belfast Telegraph