Andy Robertson insists Liverpool have gained a reputation in Europe that makes them a team to avoid in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
The Reds remain on course to defend their continental crown after beating Salzburg 2-0 on Tuesday to secure a place in Monday’s last-16 draw in Nyon.
Jurgen Klopp’s side beat domestic rivals Tottenham 2-0 in last season’s final, a year on from losing to Real Madrid in the showpiece fixture.
Having finished top of Group E, Liverpool can face one of Real Madrid, Atalanta, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund or Lyon in the next round.
Robertson believes each of those sides would rather dodge a trip to Anfield as the reigning champions aim to reach the final for a third year running.
“That is the atmosphere we have created in the last two years – a team which has been to the final twice and we are respected in this tournament,” Robertson told reporters, quoted by several British newspapers.
“Maybe the first season when we went to the final, I don’t think we were really respected until after we went to Porto and washed them away.
“We did not get the respect we deserved. Now, we know we are respected in Europe. No one will want us but everyone who gets into the last 16 will fancy themselves.
“It is the toughest tournament. The teams you come up against are outstanding and will fancy themselves. Everyone is confident. And when you get to the last 16 you get to the nitty-gritty.”
Liverpool lead the way in the Premier League and have knocked the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Barcelona out of the Champions League in the past two seasons.
But Robertson, who has featured 24 times in UEFA’s flagship competition, concedes Liverpool now have a target on their back as reigning champions.
“Last year and the year before we have been excellent in the knockout stages and we have controlled games, but we know that now we are the champions everyone wants to beat us,” he said.
“That is what we have to deal with and hopefully we can deal with it well. But there are about 40 games between now and the last 16 so we will worry about that when the time comes.
“We need to keep proving why people don’t want to play against us. We know it will be tough, but we look forward to the challenge as we want to go far in this tournament again and we have made a big step.”