Former Liverpool midfielder Vladimir Smicer is anticipating the Reds’ Champions League round of sixteen tie against Inter will be a great occasion.
Speaking to Italian news outlet FCInterNews, the 48-year-old gave his thoughts ahead of the first round of the knockouts, pitting his former side against an in-form Nerazzurri.
The Reds have endured a slight stumble over the festive period, but there is still no doubt about the quality that they possess in their team, having won six games out of six in the group stage of the Champions League.
The Nerazzurri, meanwhile, have looked like the strongest team in Italy as they’ve surged to the top of the Serie A table, while they deservedly made it to the knockouts of the Champions League for the first time in a decade.
Both clubs have significant historical pedigree in European competition, while both are looking especially formidable at this point in time, and their two-legged clash promises to be one of the highlights of the round of sixteen.
“For both teams the first draw was better, for sure” Smicer stated regarding the fact that Inter and Liverpool expected to be facing Ajax and Red Bull Salzburg before the round of sixteen had to be re-drawn due to initial errors.
“But it’s the Champions League, it’s about the best teams in the world,” he added. “So if you want to win the competition, you eventually have to come up against fearsome opposition.”
“Maybe Liverpool are better off facing Inter because they have nothing to lose,” he went on. “And by progressing they can gain even more confidence.”
The Czech former midfielder added that “If you play against the less strong teams, you feel a lot more pressure to win. Also, the fans will be able to enjoy a wonderful matchup.”
“The Reds are playing very well,” he continued, “both in the Premier League and in the Champions League.”
Smicer explained that “There is a big difference compared to last season, where the team had droped quite a few points thanks to injuries, especially in the defensive areas.”
“Today they are firing on all cylinders,” he added, “including the attack where they are scoring many goals.”
“I think Liverpool are having a great season, but the same goes for Inter,” Smicer continued. “The Nerazzurri are a strong team, it will be an interesting match.”
“For me, Kloop’s team remain the favourites,” he opined, “they have one of the best squads in the entire history of the club.”
“Van Dijk, Fabinho, Firmino, Origi, Salah, Jota,” he named as some of the most formidable players Inter will come up against. “These are top players who can play very well together, they play good football and never stop fighting.”
Of the second leg at Anfield Smicer predicted that “It will be one for the history books. Reds fans always support the team, even when they are losing.”
He stated that “There will be a special atmosphere, which will energize the players on the pitch. This is why it is never easy to face Liverpool at home.”
Regarding the fact that the Reds have already beaten Inter’s city rivals AC Milan twice, Smicer stated that “At the moment Inter are better than Milan.”
“I’m not only saying this due to Liverpool beating them twice in their group,” he added. “It seems to me that Pioli’s team is under construction, unlike the Nerazzurri, who seem to have that little bit more quality.”
Speaking about the Inter player who he regards most highly, the former midfielder stated that “I believe that the most important player is the one who scores and creates chances. And at Inter that is Lautaro Martinez, who is a top-level player.”
“Fast, intelligent, strong,” he characterized the Argentine. “But he is farm from the only one at that level, of course.”