Red alert

Sports | 17 Sep 2019

Jurgen Klopp has warned Liverpool that retaining the Champions League will be even harder than their incredible march to victory in Madrid last season.

Liverpool start their bid to win a seventh European Cup with a trip to Napoli for their Group E opener tomorrow (HK time).

The Reds have reached the last two finals, beating Tottenham in the Spanish capital in June after losing to Real Madrid 12 months earlier.

But Klopp believes Liverpool face a daunting task to make it to the final in Istanbul's Ataturk Stadium - a venue which carries extra resonance for the club after they won the 2005 Champions League with an astonishing comeback against AC Milan in the same stadium.

Before Liverpool can dream of emulating Steven Gerrard and company's triumph by the banks of the Bosphorus, Klopp knows they will have to run the gauntlet in what he expects to be a fiercely contested tournament.

Napoli are expected to pose the sternest test to Liverpool in a group which also includes unfancied Austrian side Salzburg and Belgium's Racing Genk.

Carlo Ancelotti's team came within a whisker of ending Liverpool's European campaign in the group stage last season when Brazilian Alisson's superb late save denied Arkadiusz Milik to preserve a 1-0 win at Anfield that sent the Reds into the last 16 at the expense of Napoli.

Even if Liverpool should advance to the knockout rounds without so much drama this season, Klopp is wary of the restocked superpowers certain to be lying in wait in the later stages.

"We have the same chance like everyone else and I don't see the English teams dominating," Klopp said. "A lot of teams have a good chance.

"Look at the squad Borussia Dortmund has and tell me we are stronger than them ... Juventus will be there, PSG will be there. Real Madrid? Do you think they gave up already? Bayern Munich now finally brought in Ivan Perisic and Philippe Coutinho which is a big boost."

However, it is not hard to believe that some die-hard fans would happily exchange their continental supremacy for a season of domestic bliss. Having erased the pain of that 2018 final defeat against Real, Liverpool's main goal this term is to end the club's long wait to win the English title.

?Barcelona captain Lionel Messi was named in the squad to face Borussia Dortmund tomorrow. The Argentina striker has not played since sustaining a calf injury in pre-season.

Striker Ansu Fati, 16, has also been included in the squad for the Group F match.

?Frank Lampard is proud to be leading Chelsea back into the Champions League but will be without defender Antonio Rudiger for tomorrow's Group H clash with Valencia at Stamford Bridge.

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