Sunday, May 16, 2021

Klopp accepts empty Anfield is a ´problem´ but challenges Liverpool to believe

SoccerNews in English Premier League 13 Apr 2021

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Liverpool’s hopes of producing another famous European comeback at Anfield will be reduced due to the lack of fans, manager Jurgen Klopp has conceded.

The Reds lost 3-1 to Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie in the Spanish capital, leaving them with an arduous task to reach the last four.

Liverpool have only progressed twice in the previous 13 European knockout ties in which they lost the first leg by at least two goals, the most recent example coming two years ago when they stunned Barcelona with a 4-0 win at Anfield after losing the first game 3-0.

Anfield has become much less of a fortress this season while games have been played behind closed doors, with last weekend’s 2-1 win over Aston Villa ending a six-game losing streak at home in the Premier League for the English champions.

Klopp accepts it is a blow to play without the backing of the crowd but he hopes his players still believe in their chances.

“When you’re 3-1 down, it looks like you’re already out,” he said on Tuesday. “That means you have not a lot to lose, so we will give it a try. It’s exactly how we’ll go for it.

“It’s a result of the performances of the night: they were better than us and we were not as good as we could have been, or should have been. But it’s the first leg.

“It’s just one extra problem: no supporters in the stadium. The result is a problem, the quality of the opponent is a problem, and obviously that the stadium is empty is a problem as well.

“It’s always about winning football games and that is the target. If that will end up in a comeback, I have no idea.

“We have to be in a mood to start believing again and, if that happens and we can see that it’s possible, then we have a chance, but it’s still incredibly difficult.”

Real Madrid have scored in each of their previous 23 Champions League knockout matches and an away goal would put them in a commanding position to progress.

While Klopp would love to keep a clean sheet, he is not certain any side can keep Madrid at bay if they are at their best.

“The clean sheet is very important but that’s not too different to other games – you never want to concede goals,” he said.

“I have no idea [if there is] anyone in the world who can deny Real Madrid having any chances.

“They beat us and then they beat Barcelona in a very important game so they are obviously in a good moment. We have to be 100 per cent on our top level if we want to make it.

“With the quality that Real Madrid has you have to defend on your absolutely highest level and that is what we didn’t do in the first leg.”

Vinicius Junior produced arguably his best performance for Madrid in the first leg, scoring either side of Marco Asensio’s goal to give Zinedine Zidane’s side men the advantage.

Klopp, who was not surprised by the Brazilian’s display, wants his team to control the passing threat of Toni Kroos better in order to prevent a repeat.

“He is an outstanding talent, everybody knew it before Real Madrid signed him [from Flamengo in 2018],” he said.

“The one goal we could have defended but the other was just a great long ball and then a great first touch and finish.

“We have to try to avoid the passes in his direction, which is a big task. [I was] impressed yes, surprised no.”

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