Asked if Liverpool FC were now dark horses to win the UEFA Champions League after last week's stirring Anfield victory against Juventus FC, Djimi Traore's sensible response was: "No, we will see after the second leg."
It is wise not to assume anything about Liverpool's season, a point underlined by their defeat at Manchester City FC on Saturday. Manager Rafael Benítez may have declared after the 2-1 success against the Italians that Liverpool "are more consistent now than earlier in the season" but the 1-0 setback in Manchester certainly suggested otherwise.
Still, for full-back Traore, who with Sami Hyypiä, will return to the Reds' backline in Turin after being rested on Saturday, there are positive portents as Liverpool look to defend their first-leg advantage. "We have produced some good away performances in Europe, like in La Coruna and Leverkusen. We need to go in like that," he told uefa.com.
While Liverpool have lost nine times in 16 away games in the English Premiership, they have won three of their five ties on the road in Europe, a qualifying match at Grazer AK included, and were comfortable 3-1 victors at Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the last round. That said, Traore - a regular under Benítez after almost leaving Liverpool last summer - also recognises that this will be the toughest test yet for a side missing the injured Steven Gerrard.
Juventus have lost only once at the Stadio Delle Alpi all season and beat Real Madrid CF 2-0 there in the last 16. "It is very hard to play in Italy against Juventus as you saw when Real Madrid went there," said the French-born Mali international. "We will try and avoid doing what Madrid did, we'll have to defend well and score a goal and try to keep a clean sheet."
Keeping a clean sheet, of course, will mean keeping quiet an attack that includes Czech playmaker Pavel Nedved and Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The latter failed to shine at Anfield, where a succession of flicks and knockdowns bore little fruit, but he scored his 12th goal of the campaign in the weekend draw with ACF Fiorentina and Traore is wary of his threat, saying: "Zlatan is a very good player, a very strong player. He's the target man and a real danger."
Liverpool, Benítez conceded, produced "two different levels" of performance in the same 90 minutes of the first leg and it is imperative they start well against the Bianconeri, not allowing their hosts to seize control from the outset. Looking back at last Tuesday's match, Traore believes the Italians underestimated Liverpool initially and will not make the same mistake again.
"It's one of the great matches we've played in the Champions League this season, and even if we conceded a goal in the second half it was a good result," said Traore. "Before the game we were very excited to be playing a quarter-final against Juventus. For us it was very important and I think everybody played well. At the beginning, perhaps, Juventus considered us the weaker team but after we scored two goals, they had to react and got better and better."
The hope for Liverpool fans who witnessed the defeat at City must be that their team have their European hats on. They will also hope the players have taken heed of Benítez's words on Saturday night: "We need to know that if we can't win, sometimes it is good enough to draw."
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