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Atlético Madrid vs Liverpool: 3,000 reds fans travel for Champions League

Liverpool fans are out in force on the streets of Madrid before their CL group stage match against Atléti, who beat them in their last visit.

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Atlético Madrid vs Liverpool: 3,000 reds fans travel for Champions League
Oli Povey

Liverpool fans were out and about in Madrid ahead of Tuesday's Champions League group stage match against Atlético Madrid, with official sources expecting at least 3,000 Liverpool fans to make the journey to the Spanish capital. For many Liverpool fans, the game was their first chance of a get-away since the pandemic began, with the backdrop of covid-19 looming over every fixture.

The iconic Plaza Mayor with its coloured façades, right in the heart of Madrid's city center, was plastered with Liverpool red, as fans here for the game threw themselves into the away-day gusto.

Salah: The King of Egypt

Pre-match conversation on the terraces bathed in the bright autumn sun was dominated by Liverpool's main man, Mohamed Salah. Despite his prestigious goal scoring record, his contract expires in 2023. But the Liverpool fans out enjoying a few Mahous, the local Madrid beer, were utterly confident he will stay.

"Course I would [give Salah a new contract] because he's worth it. He's the best player in the world at the minute,", said Alan Marsh, an Anfield season ticket-holder for 47 years.

"It's gonna cost hundreds of millions to replace him. He's irreplaceable in my opinion, so I think they'll give him the pay he wants", said Dan Rigby.

“I’m about to sell my kidneys on the black market to fund [Salah’s] contract", Ben Evans grinned.

Pressed on the size of the contract, Evans said “I don’t think £400,000 a week is enough, he’s the best in the world."

Liverpool fans took to the bars early in Madrid's iconic Plaza Mayor.

Famous European nights for Liverpool

For many Liverpool fans, this game is their first chance of a get-away since the pandemic began; the last time these two sides faced each other was in March 2020, the final game both teams played before both Spain and England entered confinement due to covid-19.

For fan Evans, the match was the first time he had been out of the UK since 2019. “The toughest thing was flying over. We couldn’t get a direct flight from Liverpool. We have a five and a half hour wait on the way home in the Netherlands.”

Right now, the UK is far from beating the pandemic, with a covid-19 rate three times that of Europe and the country is currently wrestling with the highest number of new infections since January.

In contrast, Spain is experiencing some of its best covid-19 infection figures since the pandemic began. New infections in Spain are at their lowest since June 2020, and many of the most restrictive measures have been relaxed.

Importantly for Liverpool fans travelling from England, Spain does not require a covid-19 test prior to arriving in Spain, provided the individual is fully vaccinated, meaning vaccinated fans arriving for the match only had to fill in an online form and upload proof of their vaccination.

There certainly appeared to be little fear of the virus among the Reds fans thronged in the centre of Madrid, with masks in general off or absent.

There was also absolutely no sign of trouble - notwithstanding one elderly local who was complaining bitterly to a group of fans about some beer having been spilt on his trousers, though it wasn't at all clear whether they had actually been at fault. The incident soon passed with no consequences. The British embassy in Madrid meanwhile confirmed there had been no reports of trouble from local police the previous night.

Bars wanting more, Atléti fans surprised

Athough the Liverpool songs being chanted by the fans were loud enough to drown out the sounds of the city as the day wore on, Francisco, a waiter at the La Torre del Oro bar, who chose not to give his surname, had hoped there would be even more Liverpool fans here, spending their hard-earned cash on tapas such as spicy patatas bravas and fried squid rings, a speciality of this particular square.  

“We are doing better than the previous days, but not much better,” he said. “We expected them to be much more, but the few that have flown to Madrid are not even consuming as much as previous years.”

Despite the liver bird flags adorning the bar fronts, the few Atléti fans around in the Plaza Major expressed surprise at how quiet it was compared to previous years.

“I came here all dressed up in my Atlético kit just to pick on the English, but this is much calmer than I expected,” said Atléti fan Jesus Ortega, who has attended the last fifteen Champion league finals with his family. Dani García, another Atleti fan, who had made the four-hour car journey from Huesca to see his side, agreed.

When asked if they were afraid Luis Suárez would find it difficult due to his Liverpool past, both agreed that he would come out stronger than ever and predicted the striker would score against his old club. A prediction that failed to materialise, with Atleti falling to a 2-3 defeat, with Suárez not on the scoresheet.

The bars in Plaza Mayor were no doubt content at the win for Klopp's side, as the Liverpool fans streamed back to their favourite afternoon haunts to start celebrating under the watchful gaze of the statue of King Philip III of Spain at the centre of the square, who was no doubt hoping he might end the night without the indignity of a traffic cone on his head.

Statue of Philip III, hopeful.