Saturday 25 May 2019

Miguel Delaney: 'Jurgen Klopp can defy logic yet again by seizing on the spirit of Anfield'

Jurgen Klopp relishes the challenge Champions League provides
Jurgen Klopp relishes the challenge Champions League provides
Jurgen Klopp knows logic dictates that Barcelona will get through comfortably at Anfield tonight. Photo: Getty Images

Miguel Delaney

Whatever about seizing the day to actually win, there can be little doubt that Jurgen Klopp always seizes the mood to actually perform. Especially on elevated occasions like this, where there's an electricity to a stadium like Anfield.

"Two of the world's best strikers are not available and we have to score four goals to go through in 90 minutes," the German said on the eve of Liverpool's Champions League semi-final second leg with Barcelona.

"That is the plan: just try, and if we can do it, wonderful. If not, fail in the most beautiful way."

In other words, just go for it.

"It is football," Klopp added. "There is hope."

That is also another element that elevates this decisive, final stage of the season, and why Klopp so catches the mood of it.

We're at that point where emotion must trump logic because all that matters now is giving your all to try to do what you must. Doubt can dilute that. And logic - or thinking about the scale of the task - can bring doubt.

Liverpool are still a team playing without doubt. The last few months, and even the last few days, prove that. They keep defying logic.

Logic, after all, would have dictated that their season's form was unsustainable. Yet they keep going.

Logic would have dictated that their season might have ended in fairly tepid fashion after the 3-0 first-leg thrashing at Barcelona, because of the manner they lost and the manner Manchester City had beaten Burnley. The late goal at Newcastle United blew that away. Their season was only fired again.

Logic dictates that Barcelona will comfortably get through, especially with Liverpool needing to score at least three goals, and both Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino out.

That has led to Klopp handing England's U-17 World Cup hero Rhian Brewster his first senior call-up to compensate for the injuries.

Brewster, 19, will start on the bench, with his manager indicating he would be given his debut during the game.

The challenge for Liverpool is a huge one though and there is admittedly a distinctive psychological process - almost a delusion - that must take over teams in situations like this.

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It goes from the immediate next-day realisation that a task like overcoming a 3-0 deficit to Barcelona is virtually impossible, to a gradual next-week rationalisation of how it might actually be possible.

You can easily imagine the thinking. If the stadium is rocking, the opposition may suddenly get apprehensive. If there's an early goal, they may suddenly feel the pressure.

The sense starts to grow that you might just witness a spectacle. Recent Champions League history has only fostered this feeling. There is now so much hard evidence that such comebacks are possible. Klopp will be seizing that, too.

A spirit of chaos has infused the competition, in a way that was never even imaginable for most of its history. Stunning comebacks have become relatively standard.

There have been five from two goals or more since the start of 2017 alone, with Barcelona involved in two, experiencing both sides.

Last season's collapse to Roma was naturally brought up in Klopp's press conference, although the German was quick to add a significant caveat.

"It was 4-1 away, they had an away goal… We have to do it our way."

But that's also almost the point, where genuine logic starts to fortify the delusion, because the manager must set a way; a visualisable route to victory.

It was what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did with Manchester United before their Paris Saint-Germain comeback. It was what Luis Enrique did with Barcelona before their Paris Saint-Germain comeback. It is what Klopp is evidently doing now.

"I would imagine the place will be rocking already, that is what I expect. If we can score, that is what it is."

But, if they score, it changes what the game is. It is no longer an insurmountable 3-0 deficit.

It is a situation where they just need one more goal to make it properly tense, to make the opposition suddenly see the possibility of going out, and potentially play in fear.

"This is why just scoring one is more than a third of the battle. It changes the battle. And it makes it a proper game.

There is, however, another grand caveat to that.

"We not only have to score," Klopp added. "We have to deny Barcelona from scoring."

And that is arguably a more difficult task, especially with Lionel Messi in this kind of form.

It is arguably the worst possible situation in football. You must score, but in trying to do so leave yourself susceptible to the greatest player in history, and the sucker punch of an away goal. Logic dictates Barca will get at least one.

Liverpool can't allow logic like that to affect their thinking, though. Klopp must make them think a different way - and seize the spirit of the recent Champions League, as well the club's entire season.

© Independent News Service

  • Liverpool v Barcelona, Live, RTÉ 2/BT Sport 2, 8.0

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