Friday 18 August 2017

'Liverpool have overcome psychological hurdle in qualifying for the Champions League' - Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

Simon Hughes

Jürgen Klopp believes Liverpool's players have overcome a psychological hurdle by qualifying for the Champions League and he is now determined to ensure that this is the start of a new era where his team consistently features in Europe’s elite competition.

Liverpool’s 3-0 victory over already relegated Middlesbrough secured a place in August’s Champions League play-offs ahead of Arsenal who beat Everton 3-1 at the Emirates.

Goals from Georginio Wijnaldum, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana secured Liverpool’s passage after a nervous opening at Anfield.

In the end, though, Liverpool’s day could not have gone any better. CSKA Moscow’s 4-0 victory over Anzhi Makhachkala coupled with Borussia Dortmund’s 4-3 win against Werder Bremen yesterday means Liverpool will be seeded in the Champions League’s play-off round in late August.

Rather than facing Sevilla, Napoli, Ajax or Dynamo Kiev, Liverpool’s toughest likely opponents are now likely to be either Sporting Lisbon or Hoffenheim.

There had been fortune in Liverpool’s victory as well. Referee Mike Atkinson decided not to award a penalty when Dejan Lovren bundled Patrick Bamford over inside the box when the score was goalless after just 20 minutes.

Lovren’s arm was placed over Bamford’s shoulder and then there had been a tangle of legs. Had Atkinson decided alternatively, Lovren would have been fortunate to stay on the pitch. It was a decision Steve Agnew, the Middlesbrough manager, thought was incorrect and he was right to feel aggrieved. “I thought it was a definite penalty,” he said “It is moments like that as a counter-attacking team, you need to go your way.”

It did not go Agnew's way and by the 56th minute, Liverpool were 3-0 up. Klopp described the Champions League as “the best tournament in Europe.”

“There is nothing better maybe in the world,” he said. “You want to be there. Liverpool needs to be there consistently. I am not saying we are already. I am already looking forward to it. We will be really strong and really fight for it and we want to be there. In the last 10 years Liverpool was not a part of it too often. We should do everything to change this. The step is for us to be around the best teams in the world because we are at one of the best clubs in the world. Usually at the end of the season I am tired but I could start tomorrow.”

Klopp had said on Friday that his Liverpool team is not yet at a middle stage of development. By winning when they were expected to here, he believes his players will have learned psychological lessons.

“We are not confident enough in general [before],” he said. “When something doesn’t work it feels something slips through your fingers. I am really happy we achieved something we didn’t achieve too often in the past. You need to feel the improvement, the next step that it is right. I am really happy about the situation and to learn things in football can happen. No season in football is like this. I hope we showed we can still come back and work with this.”

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