Atletico Madrid have angered Liverpool… Now Jurgen Klopp’s side must channel it at Anfield

David Lynch
AFP via Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp often talks up the value of his Liverpool players being constantly angry, but it hasn’t been particularly easy to do that this season. Hardly surprising during a start to the campaign that has, at times, touched upon perfection.

But away at Atletico Madrid last night, things suddenly felt very different.

Beaten 1-0 and having failed to register a single shot on target, the Reds finally had cause to be angry.

That frustration was evident in one of Klopp’s more aggressive post-match exhortations, which saw him warn: “For those Atletico fans lucky enough to get a ticket… welcome to Anfield.”

It could also be heard from Andy Robertson who, rather witheringly, declared: “They celebrated as if they had won the tie. But let’s see.”

It wasn’t just the bitter taste of a first defeat since September that had angered both men - the circumstances in which it came about were, in fact, the main source of irritation.

Take, for example, the fact that Atletico had shown enough intent to earn Sadio Mane a second yellow card by half-time that Klopp was forced into withdrawing him at the interval.

The manager has previous with referee Szymon Marciniak, who showed six yellow cards to Liverpool players and called 20 fouls against them during a 2-1 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain last season.

For those Atletico fans lucky enough to get a ticket… welcome to Anfield.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

And here, he simply did not trust the official’s judgement enough to leave Mane on the pitch and risk a stint with 10 men plus a potential suspension.

In his defence, the man in the middle wasn’t exactly being helped by the hosts’ enthusiasm for the theatrical whenever a visiting player came near them.

As Klopp put it: “I was afraid his opponent would go down now even if Sadio takes a deep breath or whatever and I didn't want to have that situation.”

That this cynicism was combined with a gnarled, backs-to-the-wall performance that put the emphasis firmly on preventing any football breaking out only served to further rile the visitors.

It is worth mentioning here that Liverpool have bloodied the nose of plenty of big hitters themselves with a not-too-dissimilar approach in recent years.

Yet that doesn’t make being on the receiving end any easier to take, or improve their chances of reaching the quarter-finals from here.

What might help, though, is the resentment that was clear in the body language of every player as they slumped from the Wanda Metropolitano pitch, and in several of their post-match interviews.

It seems that Klopp finally has an angry team at his disposal once more, and that could be crucial going into a second leg where every outcome remains possible.

The Reds have no interest in allowing the defence of their European crown to end at the last-16 stage, even if Atletico Madrid seemed hell-bent on ensuring that is the case in the first leg.

And, unfortunately for the Spaniards, their stellar efforts on Tuesday evening only amounted to a single-goal lead that seems unlikely to decide this tie

Simeone’s men are certain to face different conditions in the second leg, when the famously partisan Anfield crowd get their own chance to help shape a fascinating contest.

They are also likely to be facing a Liverpool transformed by an anger that only defeat can rouse.

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