As soon as the final whistle blew on Liverpool’s impressive 2-0 victory over Atletico Madrid, the thoughts of many turned to the Reds’ final two group stage games. A pair of games that now really don’t seem to matter.
Whatever happens next, Jürgen Klopp’s side are through. In first place. They’ve qualified for the knockout rounds of the Champions League after just four games. But the manager says that won’t change his approach.
“The team we line up depends on the situation we are in around the game,” Klopp noted following Wednesday night’s victory over the La Liga champions. “Who was how in the game before, who is the next opponent.
“We changed five [players] tonight because we don’t consider the Madrid game is more important than the West Ham game, for example, and so you have to make changes even when players might not like it.
“The Porto game, we are already qualified but all the rest is exactly like it was before. It is a Champions League game, the game after that is at the San Siro—and I’ve never played there, so I’m really excited about that.
“We will play real football. Can you imagine we play Porto at home, the crowd is really coming from all over the world to watch the games and then you offer, I don’t know, a half-cooked dish? That is not how it will be.”
Two more victories, then, is the target. At least ideally. At least if fitness, form, and the other matches allow for Klopp to play his strongest side or something close to it. The games, though, don’t happen in a vacuum.
The circumstances mean Klopp will have more freedom when it comes to player selection. At the end of the day, though, Liverpool and their manager will prepare for FC Porto and AC Milan targeting nothing less than a win.
“We go for it, we want to win football games,” the Liverpool manager added. “That’s all. Sometimes you can qualify for something, sometimes not, it is still the same thing—you play a game, you want to win it.”