Five years after leaving Liverpool FC for Real Madrid CF, Álvaro Arbeloa returns as the holders visit Anfield and he spoke about the "tremendous atmosphere" that awaits.
Article top media content
Álvaro Arbeloa spent two and a half seasons at Liverpool FC before his return to first club Real Madrid CF in summer 2009 – and it is with the UEFA Champions League title holders that he is back at Anfield on Wednesday.
Arbeloa, who played in Liverpool's famous 4-0 home defeat of Madrid in the 2008/09 round of 16, spoke to the media on Tuesday about the Group B reunion and why the visitors are not fooled by the Reds' defensive frailties on Sunday against Queens Park Rangers FC.
What have you said to your team-mates ahead of the Anfield trip?
I've certainly told them about the tremendous atmosphere that will await them. One thing for sure is the supporters will really get behind Liverpool and drive them forward. It's a very special game for Liverpool, not just because they are welcoming Real Madrid but because they have been out of the Champions League for five years or so.
Even Cristiano Ronaldo has mentioned, I think, that this is probably the most difficult away ground he knew in his time playing in the Premier League. It makes it more difficult for ourselves in that Liverpoool really need to win tomorrow night given the state of the group. We know they are going to put us under pressure, they'll make us suffer at times during the game, but we've got to be ready and be able to take our chances when we create them because we know they are going to put us under pressure from the word go, with the support of this crowd.
It is a special day for me. I am really happy to be back in Liverpool and here at Anfield. Many things have changed since the last time we played here. We are a new team and Liverpool have new players also. I think there are only three Liverpool players, if I'm not wrong – Stevie [Gerrard], Martin [Škrtel] and Lucas – who were here last time. So it is a different game, with different preparation – and we know that.
What's it like playing at Anfield?
It's tough to put into words. It is something you have to experience for yourself. These massive nights in the Champions League, even league games during the day, are special occasions and you only have to listen to that special sound of You'll Never Walk Alone before the game. I would almost put it into words that it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
As a player, it is a special environment, it's a special stadium and you need to experience that at least once in your career. They will be able to speak to me afterwards and tell me what it meant to them, but you have to put that to one side because it is a very, very important game and once the whistle goes we are all out there to get the three points to progress further in the tournament.
Cristiano Ronaldo is in the form of his life ...
We can only use so many superlatives. His form is incredible at the moment and even if you compared it with what he was like two years ago you probably wouldn't believe the figures that he is achieving. We do count on him to a certain extent for his goals and generally he delivers – it's not very often we say he hasn't scored. Obviously, the rest of the squad are very happy with his performances.
Confidence-wide, he's probably at the highest level of confidence he could be. Is he in the best form of his career? That's probably not for me to decide, but he's certainly in a fantastic vein of form.
Weekend's perfomances – how will that affect the approach tomorrow?
Even if Liverpool had lost at the weekend 10-0, I would still be coming here worried and concerned about what Liverpoool team we will be facing tomorrow. It's a totally different game to what happened at the weekend. I know what Liverpoool are capable of on a European night. I'm expecting a very good battle between the two sides but we are going to be ready and prepared for a tough, tough game. Probably you would say Liverpoool are in more need of the points given the current group situation, so that makes things even tougher for us.