By Andy Hall
A FIFA World Cup winner with Brazil and the recipient of a host of domestic honours in Brazil and Spain, you would think that it would be no easy task to get RC Deportivo La Coruña midfield player Mauro Silva's pulse racing.
However, ever since last week's UEFA Champions League draw in Monaco, the 36-year-old Brazilian has been buzzing as he contemplates the prospect of a first - and probably last - trip to play in front of the Kop end at Liverpool FC's Anfield stadium on 19 October.
"I have never had the chance to play at Anfield during my career and so I am very excited to be able to now," he explained. "A lot of history has been made at that stadium, it's a mythical ground and it makes me very happy to know that I will now have the chance to play there."
It could well be one of the player's last games in European competition after he recently told his coach Javier Irureta that this season would be his last, having been a rock at the heart of the Deportivo midfield since joining the club from CA Bragantino in 1992.
As the Primera División campaign began last Saturday, Mauro claimed his 350th league appearance in Deportivo's game against RCD Espanyol, and he is now looking forward to his fifth successive season of Champions League football with Deportivo, after reaching the semi-finals with his team last season.
As well as two games against Liverpool, Deportivo need to outwit AS Monaco FC and Olympiacos CFP in order to claim a place in the knockout stages this season. And certainly, Mauro is in no doubt that all three sides are worthy opponents.
At this level you know that none of the teams you could face are going to be easy," he explained. "The hard work really begins now because no one is going to give us an easy ride."
Boasting a Spanish coach, Rafael Benítez, and Spanish players Xabi Alonso, Josemi, Antonio Núñez and Luis García, Liverpool will provide a particularly stern test for Deportivo.
"[Benítez] knows the Spanish league inside out and that will be a plus for Liverpool," said Mauro. "Xabi and Josemi know our strengths and weaknesses but we know about theirs too. What is clear is that we cannot afford to go into any of these games with excessive confidence like we did last year."
That statement will certainly cover the visit of Monaco, even though Deportivo famously were thrashed 8-3 at the same stage of the competition by Didier Deschamps' men last season. "I'm sure that the press will be making something out of it but for us, it's just another game," he said. "We don't see it as a grudge match at all. As far as we are concerned, it's the same as playing Liverpool or Olympiacos - we have to go out to win and make sure of the three points.
"I think this season's competition has a higher level than in previous years," concluded the Brazilian. "It's more evenly-balanced. We have Spain's four top clubs, Italy's four top clubs and that's important - that all the historic clubs, the strongest teams on the continent are taking part."
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