Following Liverpool’s comprehensive four goal victory over West Ham, manager Jürgen Klopp was in an ebullient mood, clearly thrilled with the performance of his players in a tricky situation, but also eager to keep the focus on next week’s match. Liverpool can secure an opportunity to play in next season’s Champions League by beating already-relegated Middlesbrough at Anfield.
To do so, the players could take a page from today - there was no small amount of pressure on the Reds’ starters at the London Stadium, and Klopp knows that the pressure will be there at Anfield as well. A certain degree of mental fortitude will be called for, regardless of the opposition, and the manager will have his hands full during the lead up. But first, there was an encouraging win to dissect, and Klopp pointed to what was probably a key turning point - Ayew’s double miss from point blank range:
They had one of the biggest chances I’ve ever seen in my life, but they didn’t score. That was a lucky moment for us. The start of the second half was brilliant, we played really good football.
We were more direct, we used the information from the first half, and analyzed things at half time. We tried a few different surprising movements, with better timing, passing, and running. It’s easy to say, much more difficult to do, but the boys did really brilliantly.
With the job done at West Ham, Klopp turned to reminding everyone that the fact of relegation might actually mean that Middlesbrough can play like they have nothing to lose. With the stakes conversely being ridiculously high for the home side, Liverpool will have to avoid starting the match on the back foot. Listening to Klopp, it would appear that the psychological preparation has already begun:
The first thing from the players in the dressing room today was ‘one more time, one more game.’ We will stay focused, 100 percent. We know about the situation we know about the difficulty of the next game.
Nobody will underestimate Middlesbrough. They had a hard season. It’s difficult to enjoy football in a season such as this. I’m pretty sure they will want to enjoy football at Anfield, to play good football, and that makes it difficult for us.
In truth, Middlesbrough are a bit of a mess at the moment, and there are a few players in their squad whose futures with the club are very much in question. That said, they did also take points away from Manchester City not that long ago, so Klopp’s warnings should be well heeded. We will see in a week whether Liverpool’s players can respond to their manager. If they can repeat this week’s performance, a new chapter in the Klopp era will open next season.