When Liverpool smashed Porto 5-0 in the first away leg, most fans and pundits were already talking about the tie as if it was over. For all practical purposes, it was. That did not stop manager Jürgen Klopp from downplaying the big win. Then, as in now, the manager has a role in refocusing fans and players alike toward the next match.
“You must celebrate a party when the party starts. Not four weeks before,” Kloppo said in his post match presser.
“I am too long in the business. I know it is not decided. Sure, 3-0 is better than 1-0, better than 2-0. It is better than 3-1. But it’s only half-time. No one was in the dressing room dancing around after the half-time result.”
Klopp knows a thing or two about man management and team psychology, and he was reluctant to say anything to either hurt his team’s chances, or help Manchester City’s chances next week for the decisive second leg.
“If I answer your questions the way you want me to, Pep [Guardiola] only has to put the newspapers in the dressing room and say ‘look what Klopp said’. We have to work like hell. We are not in the next round. Why should I celebrate it?
“They didn’t create the usual number of chances because we defended outstandingly good. Trent had a fantastic game, Robbo on the other side, both centre-halves spot on, our three midfielders… That is the only way to get anything against Man City. That’s why it’s 3-0.”
It is a difficult task to get Liverpool back up and ready for action, not just for next week’s second leg, but for a Merseyside Derby, which suddenly seems impossibly close.
But he’s right, there is work left to do, not just in qualifying for this year’s Champions League, but next year’s as well.