Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has urged the club to embrace their Champions League last 16 tie with old foes Real Madrid, despite it representing one of the toughest draws.
The Spanish giants beat Liverpool in last season’s final to become kings of Europe for a record-extending 14th time.
They also denied Klopp’s men in the 2018 final but the Reds manager declared a rematch with their continental nemeses to be “a really exciting draw”.
“This draw is proper Champions League. This is a tie that speaks for itself and one that we should all be excited about,” Klopp said.
“I know we have played Real Madrid in a couple of recent finals but it is not so often that our two clubs have met in a two-legged tie so now we can look forward to this happening.
“Real’s European record is the best around. We know this. But we also know that ours is not too bad. On top of this, we know that we have Anfield and everyone knows what this means.
“It is a really good draw. The games themselves are still a few months away but it does not take a great deal of imagination to think what the atmosphere will be like at both games.
“There is a lot of football to be played before this, of course, so we will focus on each game as it comes but yes, this draw has given us something special to look forward to.”
The last 16 draw means that Liverpool face a difficult run of fixtures between late February and mid-March next year.
They host Real Madrid on 21 February and are due to play high-flying Newcastle United and rivals Manchester United before the return leg in Spain on 15 March.
Premier League chiefs also face a headache over when to schedule Liverpool’s postponed match with Chelsea.
The Blues are also in the Champions League last 16 but play a week earlier, removing the only obvious midweek slot for the domestic fixture.
League bosses have the same problem with Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, who also need a date for a rearranged clash but are due to play in different weeks in Europe.
Chelsea stars Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Christian Pulisic are set for a reunion with their former club after they were drawn against Borussia Dortmund.
Tottenham will play seven-time European champions AC Milan in a tie that pits Spurs boss Antonio Conte against one of his former rivals in Italy.
The north Londoners also have a testing February in prospect, with derbies against West Ham and Chelsea in between their games against Milan.
Manchester City have been drawn against RB Leipzig, who they faced in last season’s group stage, winning at home and losing in Germany.
In the Europa League, Manchester United paid the price for finishing second in their group by drawing Barcelona in the play-off round.
“It is a massive challenge for us,” said Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez. “We are two big teams and it’s going to be a massive tie.”