For those of us who missed it—either by not watching from the start, or turning the game off once it became seemingly clear who would win the tie—Barcelona produced one of the most stunning comebacks in Champions League history this week. The Catalan Giants erased a 4-0 first leg deficit AND overcame a 62’ Edinson Cavani away goal with three late goals to win 6-5 on aggregate.
It was the type of comeback that both our beloved club and our beloved manager have become known for over the years. However, the Liverpool boss responded by giving a brutally honest answer about where he feels the club is at the moment, and the possibilities that the rest of the season holds.
“I don’t miss Champions League because I know we were not good enough to qualify for it,” Jürgen Klopp said.
“But I still know it is wonderful to play there. I don’t need this feeling in front of the television to be highly motivated to go there next year. But when I watched it this week, especially the Barcelona game, I thought: ‘I love football’.”
Ah, there’s the romantic Kloppo that we all know and love. Considering Klopp’s track record in Europe, and the way his teams get up for big occasions, he noted:
“We would be probably very good in the Champions League. We need a wildcard!”
Joking aside, he understands the enormous challenge that lies ahead of this squad, especially considering all of the high-paid, talented teams around us.
“Of course it is in our hands. In this moment I think we should only think about how we can do it.
“Would it be a disappointment if we don’t reach it? Yes because we think we should qualify for it.”
Finishing in the Top 4 would be a major accomplishment this year, despite our loftier ambitions to start the season. And it is in our hands (if only barely) to ensure that we finish in a Champions League spot.
“Is it possible that we don’t qualify? Yes because of the league, because of the opponents and all that stuff. It would be because of us and we have to take that situation like it is. It is our big target of course. We want to do everything to get it.”
Some may see Klopp’s honesty as hedging against the possibility of not qualifying, instead of an honest assessment of where we are. He’s right that this squad still isn’t good enough to really compete in the Champions League, as we saw with our last go, which ended in a group stage exit in the 2014/15 season.
However, if we can finish in that Top 4, it greatly increases the odds of strengthening in key areas (and more importantly, with the right players) in the summer. And then maybe, just maybe, we’ll be good enough to be a Champions League side.