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'Spanish' Liverpool expect hot reception
October 22, 2008 10:37 IST
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez and goalkeeper Pepe Reina are expecting a hot reception when they return to their home town to play Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday.
They were born in the Spanish capital and their fathers grew up supporting Atletico but the Liverpool pair agreed that the Calderon was unlikely to receive them with open arms.
Atletico need to lift themselves after losing three league games on the trot, although they top Group D with two wins from two games to stand ahead of Liverpool on goal difference.
"Atletico have players with a lot of quality. The fans are great, especially if the side play well and they get behind the team. They can make it very tough for you," Benitez told a news conference, in which he doubled as a translator.
He dismissed the idea that Atletico would be nervous after their recent poor Primera Liga run, saying: "They have experienced players and playing in the Champions League is an extra motivation for everyone."
While talking of the pressure the home fans would put on Liverpool during the game, Reina and Benitez did not think it would go beyond the acceptable.
UEFA [Images] punished Atletico with a two-match stadium ban for the crowd problems that marred their last game in Europe -- a 2-1 win over Olympique Marseille -- adding that there had also been racist abuse towards Marseille's players.
The punishment was temporarily lifted to allow the Liverpool game to proceed after the visitors complained their fans had already made travel arrangements to attend the match.
"Spain is not a racist country and Madrid is not a racist city," said Reina.
Benitez said he did not expect any problems, adding: "This is an important game for me because Madrid is my city, even though my home is now Liverpool."
An injury to Spain striker Fernando Torres prevented him returning to his former club, where he is still idolised by the fans, and Benitez said it was difficult to leave him behind.
Atletico had invited Torres to come as a guest of honour.
"I spoke to Fernando and to the doctors and decided it was best he stay behind to work on his recovery because we have a lot of games coming up in a short space of time," he said.
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