Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s match against Manchester City Saturday, Liverpool’s head coach emphasized the challenge of the week ahead:
...it’s a like a Champions League week. I know we are out but if you go far enough you can have an English team in midweek in the Champions League, stuff like this. These things are possible and we had that already in the past. Yeah, I’m super-excited, absolutely. We are not dumb, we know the last game we played in Madrid was not a good game, the game before was Bournemouth, not a good game. The game before was world-class. So we have to make sure that we pick up from there or react on the other two games, whatever.
So City don’t know exactly, they have to expect us to be in a top, top, top shape and we have to show up there and really go for it, there’s no other chance for us. You want to play these games; we play City, Chelsea and Arsenal every season but in one week is pretty special. Yes, it’s difficult, but it’s the situation and now we are here. Most of the boys are healthy and let’s try and help them and use them and bring them in the best possible shape and let’s go.
Jürgen Klopp also addressed the advantages and disadvantages of having such a challenging week following an international break:
For me, yes [the international break came at a good time]. I was ready for a few days without analyzing this game [in Madrid] again. I don’t even have to talk about it anymore but that’s not what we want to be, definitely not. I have no problem with getting knocked out by Real Madrid – not that I wouldn’t be used to it in my career – but you can play and lose there and everything but we should show more than we did that night. We couldn’t; it’s not that the boys didn’t want to, we couldn’t, and that’s of course my responsibility. But I still don’t like the game.
I was ready and I’m ready again, that’s the cool part of it – you need a few days to just let it settle and then go again. There’s two months [left in the season]; we can reach a lot for us, or nothing, or whatever, while we are planning already the next season and these kinds of things. So, there’s everything in it. This is the start, nothing else, but it’s an important start.
It would have been perfect to prepare the whole team in these two weeks; that would have been great, or give a few days off and then come again. But, yes, historically we have finished strong. There is everything in a little bit. Last year, nearly four trophies and then this year, early, clear this trophy is gone and then we go out there and we go out there. So, it’s a proper thing to bring us down to ground again. It was never easy what we did before and if we do only a little bit less, for whatever reason, then it’s gone.
I know for everybody around us it is exactly like that, but now it’s clear this is out, out, out, out and so top four is the one thing we really can go for. We don’t have a perfect position to go there, to fight for it, but it’s possible. We have to win a lot of games but the more games we win, the more pressure we can make on other teams above us in the table. A lot of talk now, but in the end it is all about how we perform, how we get into this mood – a chasing mood – and go from there.
Klopp also addressed his side’s poor record against struggling teams, after the Reds fell to Bournemouth following their demolition of Manchester United before the break:
The main reason is because we didn’t play good enough. We had an awful lot of chances against Nottingham Forest – didn’t play a super game, but had an awful lot of chances. Conceded a strange goal. It was months ago, but it was like this – they scored their goal, we had chances like set-piece moments, Virg from two yards and stuff like this. I think Bournemouth was pretty similar.
We had our moments, didn’t play exceptionally well, but we were the clear better side. In the end it was not good enough. When things are going well, everything is settled and confident and stuff like this, you finish these situations off, nobody speaks about it because on the head of a player there is like an inch different whether the ball goes in or not. In general if you don’t score, you have to just try harder, try different, go again and still kill the game off if you want.
The problem was in the Bournemouth game again everything changed after we were 1-0 down and this is a bit the story of the season. In the beginning you asked me constantly about first having to go 1-0 down to wake up. Now we go 1-0 down and everything changes in the other direction. Both make not too much sense, but it is kind of part of the story. That was the reason: our reaction after being 1-0 down.
One-nil is just the result and nothing else; it is just one [piece of] information in the game – they finished one situation off and we didn’t, but let’s go from there. In the end, we missed the penalty. I am pretty sure if the ball didn’t go to the hand in that situation, then Diogo’s head was in if you watch it back. I would have then preferred if the arm was not there! These are the situations, there are so many explanations for defeats – there are always a lot, a lot, a lot of explanations, but you cannot even compare Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth. In both games we should have won, but we didn’t. Should have won because of the performance, even when it was not the best performance.
In the other games, we performed better, so that’s the easy explanation. In the past when we had these problems, it was because we struggled a little bit in possession against deep-defending sides. By the way, each team is doing that, but we improved a lot in that. This part of the game was not the problem in the games we lost because we created, we kept the ball, possession was right, passes were right, but in the end we didn’t finish them off and reacted badly as a team when we were 1-0 down. We got too quick in a rush.