With a Champions League fixture against Napoli under the lights at Anfield set for tonight, manager Jürgen Klopp has called for a show of bravery from the players following deflating back-to-back Premier League setbacks against a pair of relegations candidates.
Those results, a shock 1-0 defeat to Nottingham in a game Liverpool were probably the better side in and then a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Leeds that was most shocking for the fact Leeds were probably the better side has soured the mood, but a return to European action offers the chance of a boost.
“What we cannot and should not do is lose sight of our own qualities and our own potential,” Klopp noted. “I know this is never easy when results are not as good as we would ordinarily hope, but that actually makes it even more important that we continue to recognise them and look to make the most of them.
“Deviating away from this would not make any sense and would just make things easier for our opponents. We owe it to ourselves and to our supporters to aim to be the very best that we can be and the best way of doing this is by showing belief and being incredibly brave.”
There have been moments to remind everyone just how good this Liverpool group can be at their best. That this group came within two games of a historic quadruple that would have written them into football’s history books just last season. Somewhere in there, still, is one of the best sides in club football.
The problem, of course, is that they haven’t been able to consistently show it. That even when that team briefly appears for a game or even two or three, there is a feeling that a shockingly poor result or performance is just around the corner.
In this hectic, overcrowded season, though, there’s nothing to do but to keep going. To try to put in a good and brave performance against Napoli and hope that it will be enough—and to then hope that if it’s enough, we will get the same against Tottenham and Derby and Southampton and Aston Villa over the next few weeks.
“We have [played] really well at times this season,” Klopp added. “The problem is that we have not done it enough. The good news is that it is still there. If it was not, we would not have beaten Manchester City, we would not have won away to Ajax, and we would not have qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League with a game to spare.
“We can turn things around. We can make the situation better. We can get better results and we can definitely play better more consistently. This sounds simple but of course it is not. Tonight we will face one of Europe’s most in-form teams—we recognise this and we respect it absolutely.
“Napoli will have no interest in our problems, they will just want to take advantage of them. This is the first challenge we must confront so it would make sense if we could show our bravest face and that we stand up for ourselves and the football that we would like to play.”