After a thumping win over Hoffenheim on Tuesday, Liverpool are back in the gilded halls of the Champions League for the first time since 2014, their first foray into the competition under the management of Jürgen Klopp. The club’s last go-round ended inauspiciously, as Brendan Rodgers guided the Reds to five points and five goals in six matches, and third place in a group from which the club were expected to advance.
As last time, the Anfield outfit have been handed a relatively soft draw, sharing Group E with Spartak Moscow, Sevilla and reigning Slovenian champions NK Maribor. Klopp insists that the lack of more illustrious names does not affect the Reds’ attitude and approach to the matches, however.
“The draw was exciting – to be part of it is obviously really special,” said the manager following the draw on Thursday night. “We watched with a few of the lads together. There are groups with Barcelona, Bayern, Juventus and Real Madrid, and not to get them is of course more good than bad.
“But I don’t think that after this long way we should think about the opponents. We have to go and prepare. With Sevilla, there is an open bill, I would say. But we all know how good they are in European competition. Moscow is a long trip. And Maribor, in this moment you don’t know a lot about them; a lot of people would underestimate them, we will not.
“So we don’t think about the opponent,” the charismatic German continued. “We just think about the competition. We’ll analyse and take everything seriously – we want to go as far as possible.
“But it’s the Champions League, so that means they all earn our 100 per cent respect, how we earn 100 per cent respect from them. That’s what we will show and hopefully we have a few really good games, which we 100 per cent need.”
On the strategic aspect of planning for home and away fixtures throughout the campaign, Klopp offered the following piece of predictable reflection: “Away, home… in the group stage you need to get each point and each result you can get. That’s what we think about.
“For sure, we need to make sure that Anfield is a really difficult hill to climb for other teams. But that doesn’t mean that we go to other stadiums and think a point will be enough.
“I don’t think it makes sense to think like this.”
Balancing continental and domestic duties in what looks set to be a bloated fixture list is one of the trickier jobs for football managers, and with Liverpool’s squad already thinned by injuries, a task made more difficult still for Klopp. The notion of wanting to win every game is an admirable one, but the reality of competing on several fronts might force the Liverpool manager into prioritising certain matches over others at some point.
Liverpool begin their Champions League campaign on Wednesday the 13th of September, and will have a chance to avenge their 3-1 Europa League final loss from 2016, as Sevilla visit Anfield for the first time in club history.