Luis García on Atlético vs Liverpool
A lot of people are asking me whether I will be supporting Atlético or Liverpool this week, but it’s like: “Who do you love more, mummy or daddy?” Atlético will always have a place in my heart because my season there, in 2002/03, enabled me to get into the first team at Barcelona the following season, which was my dream when I was growing up, and I very much enjoyed going back there in 2007. However, because of what happened at Liverpool – winning the UEFA Champions League in 2005, and the way the city treated me and my family – they will always be my first-choice team.
Apparently they still sing that song about me at Anfield: “Luis García, he drinks sangria, he came from Barça to Liverpool, he’s five foot seven, he’s football heaven…” Well, I’m a little bit taller than that – more like five foot nine – but I do drink sangria, especially in the summer!
At the moment, both Atlético and Liverpool look like candidates to win the whole competition. Atlético have pretty much the best squad in La Liga at the moment and this competition owes them; they have got to the final twice in recent seasons but didn’t have the luck to win the trophy, and I am sure that will happen one day. However, at the moment, Liverpool look stronger, because they are getting more confidence and looking really fit.
At the start of the season, a lot of people were saying Liverpool needed more players and that the squad wasn’t big enough, but I always say that if you are not signing players to go straight into the first XI, maybe it’s not the right choice. If you look at the current starting line-up, there have not been many changes since they won the UEFA Champions League and the Premier League and it’s exciting to see what they can do with everybody fit.
Atlético have made a few changes in recent years; they can play with three at the back now and have made new additions in the creative area like Marcos Llorente and Yannick Carrasco. People talk about their striking options – Ángel Correa, Luis Suárez, Matheus Cunha, Antoine Griezmann – but the Champions League isn’t all about what you’ve got up front. For me, it was always about being compact at the back and having forwards who can decide a game at any moment, and both Atlético and Liverpool have that.
Liverpool have Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota, but their strength also lies in that balance further back; Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Naby Keïta and Curtis Jones in midfield, and the wing-backs – Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold – are two of the best in Europe.
Liverpool are maybe the more aggressive of the two sides going forward, but Atlético can play a high line too as well as sitting back and waiting to hit on the break.
Obviously, I would love to see Liverpool win the competition because they are still my No1 team, but I wouldn’t bet everything on them in an away game against Atlético because they are a very dangerous team, especially in front of their home crowd, and you have to give 120% to get anything from them.