Jurgen Klopp admits his Liverpool team has “a massive task” ahead of them to qualify for next season’s Champions League after exiting this year’s competition following a 1-0 defeat at Real Madrid.
Karim Benzema’s scrappy second half goal gave the reigning champions the victory at the Bernabeu, as they progressed from the round of 16 tie 6-2 on aggregate. For Liverpool, last year’s beaten finalists, their season now rests upon finishing in the top four.
“We came here with the backpack we had with the three goals difference, and you need a special performance and we did not show a special performance,” Klopp said at the post-match press conference.
“If you want to get through, you need to be outstanding. If you want to win the game, you need to be really good, and Madrid was the better team and that’s why the right team went through to the next round.
“In moments it was a good performance but Real Madrid were the team in control for most of the game. They had the better chances. Ali (Alisson Becker) had to make two sensational saves to keep us in the game and that’s the reason (we lost).”
Following the upcoming international break, Liverpool will take on Premier League champions Manchester City at the Etihad, before travelling to Chelsea three days later, after which they’ll host league leaders Arsenal.
“With the history we have in this competition (Champions League), we start usually in the competition with the idea of winning it, to be honest,” said Klopp.
“We reached the final a few times, didn’t win the final that often, that’s true, but we were there three times in the last few years and that’s why I believe if you want to win the competition, you have to be outstanding. It is the competition and we want to be part of it every year. That’s a massive task for us, we all know that.
“When we come back from the international break we have a proper football week ahead of us, I would say, with three games: City, Chelsea and Arsenal, which will then probably define what we get out of it.
“People might say we lost it in Bournemouth, but I think this week is a pretty decisive one, so we have to hope now the boys come back healthy, early enough, in the right shape and then we will try it.”
Liverpool are currently in sixth place, six points behind fourth place Tottenham who have played one game more, while fifth place Newcastle are two points ahead of the Anfield club with one game less played.
“Our job is to squeeze absolutely everything from this season as possible,” Klopp said.
“It’s a strange one so far, just our recent two games – a sensational performance against Manchester United, a very good football team, and a really bad performance against Bournemouth, again a good football team but we should not lose this game.
“That put us again under more pressure. Three points, and I think everyone would have really felt it, smelt our breath if you like. There is again distance (to the top four) because other teams won their games. (But) it is clear, we want to be top four.”
Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota, who have both had their injury troubles this season, were replaced in the second half in Madrid. But Klopp says there were no new injuries to report after the defeat.
“For Diogo it was clear he shouldn’t play extremely long as he is still coming back from a long, long injury and you could see the game got harder for him. He made some fouls as he was coming late, so no risk for him. Darwin looked like he was not at the absolute top level as well and we needed to defend that side as well. We could change and we wanted to mix things up a bit.”
The Reds however will be without Stefan Bajcetic after the 18 year-old confirmed his breakthrough season has come to an end due to an adductor injury. “Unfortunately I’ve picked up an injury that will keep me out until the end of the season,” the midfielder said on Instagram. “It’s very sad to say goodbye to this amazing season for me but I understand this is part of football and will only make me stronger physically and mentally.”
Meanwhile Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti said after his team’s latest win over Liverpool that he believes Vinicius Jr is currently the best player in the world. The Brazilian dribbled past Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold – who was left out of England’s squad on Thursday – six times. The most suffered by any player in this week’s Champions League matches.
“He is (the best player in the world),” said the Italian manager. “He is important because he assisted (Benzema’s goal) and every time he touched the ball he was dangerous.”