Atletico Madrid star Marcos Llorente will never forget his trip to take on Liverpool in March of 2020.
The Real Madrid youth graduate had only eight months earlier swapped his boyhood club for their rivals – and was struggling to prove his true value to new boss Diego Simeone in holding or attacking midfield.
The career of the 25-year-old would then be propelled thanks to a single substitute appearance. An appearance in which he sent reigning European champions Liverpool crashing to their knees at Anfield.
After slipping to a 1-0 defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, Jurgen Klopp and his team were fired up for the home leg of their Round of 32 clash and struck early via the head of Georginio Wijnaldum.
After Roberto Firmino had given the home side the lead in their early stages of extra-time, Llorente struck expertly from outside the area to catch out Adrian before repeating the feat a matter of minutes later.
Although Alvaro Morata put the game to bed on that famous night at Anfield, Atletico were subsequently knocked out at the semi-final stage by an inspired RB Leipzig five months later.
Although it is business as usual for Diego Simeone and his side this season, the fortunes of Llorente have changed dramatically – with his manager moving him into attacking role for the new campaign.
The Spain international has now addressed of the greatest night of his career ahead of their test against Barcelona this weekend, which can be watched via LaLigaTV in the UK.
Llorente exclusively told Daily Star Sport: “That match at Anfield was a turning point in my career.
“It was a match that changed my life. Some games you do well and some games you don’t do so well, but I did play very well in that match. And I think I have continued to play well since.
“Things are going well so I’m very happy about that.”
The performance also provided a huge moment of pride for Llorente’s mother, who decided to call her pet dog Anfield in tribute to the man-of-the-match performance from her son.
He said: “She is a great support for me. She can suffer a lot from matches but that day was a really happy.
“Her happiness that day really made a mark on her, a month later we brought her a dog and she was so fond of that particular day, that’s why she called him Anfield.”
Before adding: “It was a match that was very special for me, probably he best match that I’ve played in.
“I think from that point things changed. After that match I have felt able to give my all, and I’m really happy how things are going at the moment and I will work hard to continue.”
Llorente has scored three times and laid on two assists in La Liga this season from his new attacking position, and he is feeling confident that Atletico can create a nine point lead over Barcelona.
Los Rojiblancos are currently two points off top spot with two games in hand over both Real Sociedad and Villarreal, but they will be without new star striker Luis Suarez.
He added: “Obvious it is very important that Luis Suarez cannot play for us this weekend, but we have got a very competitive team and the fact that he is not playing doesn’t mean we can’t do well.”
Atletico host Barcelona on Saturday at 8PM GMT – and you can watch in the UK via LaLigaTV.
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