Fabinho Says Liverpool Relishing Challenge of Defending Champions League Crown

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistAugust 29, 2019

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - AUGUST 14: Fabinho of Liverpool lifts the UEFA Super Cup trophy as Liverpool celebrate victory following the UEFA Super Cup match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Vodafone Park on August 14, 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Fabinho has said Liverpool are relaxed about having a target on their back in the UEFA Champions League, entering the competition as defending champions this season.

The Reds beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in last term's final to win their first Champions League crown in 14 years.

Fabinho played a prominent role in their run to the title in his debut season at Anfield, and he told Liverpool's official website the team can cope with increased expectations:

"The Champions League is a special competition and we're the reigning champions, so there's always going to be a lot of expectation about who we're going to come up against. We're relaxed about it.

"We're fully aware that when we return from this international break there will be a more intense fixture schedule with midweek games, but that's good—we like it.

"As we're the reigning champions, all the other teams are going to focus much more on us, they'll know more about our team."

Jurgen Klopp's side notched wins over Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain before they reached the final at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid last season.

Doing so will have given the squad great belief in their ability to overcome the elite. Liverpool will also be boosted by a bright start to their 2019-20 campaign; they sit two points clear as Premier League leaders and are the only team yet to drop a point after three matches.

Fabinho added: "We're excited about this season's [Champions League]. We know how strong the team is and, as always, we have to work hard and with confidence."

The victory against Tottenham came just one year after Liverpool reached the competition's showpiece game in 2018, which Real Madrid won 3-1 in Kiev, Ukraine, to seal their third consecutive title. 

Liverpool's success in 2019 marked the end of Spanish dominance in the Champions League:

Goal @goal

Spanish clubs have won five of the last six #UCL titles: 🇪🇸 2013-14 | Real Madrid 🇪🇸 2014-15 | Barcelona 🇪🇸 2015-16 | Real Madrid 🇪🇸 2016-17 | Real Madrid 🇪🇸 2017-18 | Real Madrid 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 2018-19 | Liverpool https://t.co/UQ6HbgSjH4

English football enjoyed a renaissance last year, with four Premier League teams featuring in both European finals for the first time—Chelsea beat Arsenal to win the UEFA Europa League.

The 2020 Champions League final will take place at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey, the scene of Liverpool's famous 2005 final comeback victory over AC Milan on penalties (3-3 after extra time).

Klopp joked in June that he had told UEFA Liverpool would return to defend their crown in Istanbul, but he acknowledged the task will be difficult.

Speaking in August, Klopp reacted quizzically when BT Sport's Des Kelly suggested to him that Liverpool's owners, Fenway Sports Group, had told him to prioritise a second European crown and the Premier League ahead of domestic cups:

Football on BT Sport @btsportfootball

"Who told you that?!" Jurgen Klopp denies pressure from the Liverpool owners to prioritise the Premier League and praises the hierarchy at Anfield. 🎙 @DesKellyBTS https://t.co/SdHCQ6RMJ1

Fabinho has played the full 90 minutes in six of Liverpool's last seven Champions League games, and his heavy involvement already this term suggests he'll play another key role in any title run.

Liverpool will discover their 2019-20 Champions League group-stage opponents on Thursday when the draw takes place in Monaco, France, at 5 p.m. BST (12 p.m. ET)—it can be followed on B/R Live if you are in the U.S.