Jürgen Klopp insists Liverpool’s 5-0 aggregate victory over FC Porto last season will have no bearing on their rematch in the Champions League quarter-finals.
The Reds host the Portuguese side in the first leg of their last-eight tie on Tuesday night, little over a year after sealing an emphatic win against the same opponents in the Round of 16.
Klopp hosted a pre-match press conference at Anfield today to preview the game and outlined why he expects a different challenge from Sergio Conceicao’s team.
The manager also fielded questions on Liverpool’s recent spate of late goals, Mohamed Salah’s return to the scoresheet at Southampton and more.
Here’s a summary…
On Liverpool’s habit of scoring late goals…
It’s normal that we talk about this. I don’t like to talk too much about it because I like to talk about that we won the games. It looks like it was always lucky or whatever because we scored late goals. Against Tottenham, of course, it was the kind of goal you will not score a lot of times but even that was a routine from the training ground. Of course, it was lucky in the end but it was completely different at Southampton – they were late goals but we scored the goals because we played a lot better in the second half than the first half. We adapted really well to the things Southampton asked us for, so I was really pleased with the second half. We deserved the win there.
Of course, it shows we are fully focused. This club never gave up and this team never gives up. You have to try – and try and try and try – and that’s what we do in the moment, using the good situation we are in. We know how difficult the situation is as well but it’s good, we like it. We are looking forward to the challenges we are facing in the next couple of weeks. Tomorrow night is a tough one against Porto and hopefully we can use the good shape the boys are in at the moment.
On how this team has developed since the Europa League final…
Our development is incredible, especially in these tournaments – because we used every little step we made in the last years to improve. The boys grew with the challenges they were facing. It’s massive. The Europa League ride was brilliant until Basel and the Champions League was exactly the same until Kiev. We have much more positive moments in these competitions than negative and of course that helps the team but it doesn’t mean anything for the game tomorrow night, only that we are now a bit more experienced and you saw that in the second game against Bayern.
How I said after the game, everybody spoke after the 0-0, it was like ‘that is not enough’, and we didn’t even think it. It’s not that we said something and thought something different – that I said, ‘Game on’ and thought, ‘Oh my God, how can we do that?’ The boys were exactly the same. It was clear we had a chance in Munich and we used that chance. Now we have to face Porto with exactly the same respect, nothing is different.
Porto deserved it, in a spectacular manner they came through against Roma. They are a very experienced team, together with Benfica first in the table in Portugal, a really strong side with more experience than last year. They brought in Pepe; OK, he cannot play tomorrow, but they brought him in. Casillas is now in the goal even in the Champions League. It’s a different game to last year and we have to play it again, and we want to play it again – we are really happy about the opportunity, we were really happy after the Bayern game that we are still in the competition. It’s important for the club and important for the team. So, let’s try to do it again.
On the consistency of his side’s defending…
It was pretty much a week or a bit longer ago that we spoke about Virgil and the situation against Tottenham – that was individually sensational, none of us can get credit for that apart from Virg. Our situation developed. People say we now have to win every game; I don’t know how many games we won so far in the season, one less and we are in a difficult situation and City are one point ahead. We’d still play a really good season but it’s different. We are used to that.
This season is really, really tough but so far quite successful. We want to keep going. We wanted to have it like this, we want it like this, and we want to keep it like this until the last matchday. To try everything to be as successful as possible was always the idea behind everything. Defending is very important, our offensive things are very important. There were so many things people were talking about during the season – up front we don’t score enough, the midfield don’t score enough – and the only thing that was always positive was the defence. But the goal we conceded against Southampton was not a striker’s mistake. We all have to work constantly on the right things and that’s what the boys did so far. If we do it until the end of the season, I think we have a chance.
On Salah’s return to scoring last Friday…
The late Tottenham goal already helped; it was an own goal but it was forced by Mo. That felt already really good for him. For me, the best situation to describe the situation Mo was in was the big chance he had at Munich – a similar situation, coming inside, dribbling, how he scored already a few times, and then when everything was perfect in the last second Sule came from behind. He cannot see him as a striker, everything is like it should be and then the defender is coming.
He was so close in so many moments and still now has 18 [Premier League] goals, seven assists or maybe eight. That is a brilliant number. So nobody was concerned, he was not concerned. He is a grown man and he knows it’s not dreamland out there, that you only need a chance and it will be a goal – you have to work for it and his work-rate was always brilliant, in training and in the game, and that’s why nobody was concerned.
Of course, it helps if you score a goal like this. It was a world-class goal. Afterwards, probably a lot of people said in the situation you have to play it but if he passed the ball then Bobby has the ball on the left foot. It was not a perfect angle. Maybe there was one second where he could have played it but then Bobby still has it on his left foot. It’s better that Mo has it on the left foot. He scored that beautiful goal and it was so decisive, so important. If something very positive happens at the end of the season, this was one of the decisive ones, 100 per cent because in this moment at Southampton the game was open result-wise, not performance-wise anymore, but result-wise. Then, that was pretty decisive at that moment.
On whether Porto will be even more dangerous after last season’s result…
100 per cent, I understand that. As I said before, last year when we won 5-0 there I thought, ‘OK, we should not come here for a while…’ but now this year we are back again. It was a strange game, we were very clinical that night. Porto were really good in the beginning – really good – and caused us a lot of problems, but then we started scoring. I think two or three goals were after counter-attacks. At home 2-0 down, Porto probably felt the pressure but they are much more experienced now and they’ve changed everything. It’s not important, the advantage for us tomorrow night is that we play at home, the advantage for Porto is they can use the game last year as a motivation thing. We cannot use that, we cannot say that. We know the result from last year is more valuable for Porto than for us, but on the other hand I am not really interested in it.
I know my players well enough now, they don’t think about things like that – they are completely focused on the job to do. The job we have to do tomorrow night has nothing to do with last year, it is all about showing exactly the right amount of respect – but not a little bit more. We have to be strong, we have to be clear, direct, in the right moments, creative in other moments and there are a lot of things to do against a really strong Porto side. It can be a bit of a wild game because they are really good in pressing and counter-pressing, they are really well organised, they cross early, bring bodies into the box, offensively they are physically really strong, creative in midfield, experienced and young, full-backs are good crossers and all that stuff, so there is a lot to expect. I hope we are prepared, we tried everything to be as well prepared as possible.
On how he expects the two teams to set up tomorrow night…
A couple of things are possible to change, but I think we are experienced enough to deal with different situations. If they go with one striker or two strikers, it is in some moments a big difference, but in a lot of moments it is not a massive difference because another player will come into that position. It is pretty rare they are both on one line and both going behind; usually you play one up and one comes in between the lines and stuff, that’s how it is if you play 4-4-1-1, for example.
They had to do a few things, I think Corona played right-back in the last game. He’s played that in the past, but I think usually he is used as a winger, so we will see how they deal with that. Analysis is important, but on the other hand we have our own things; if we watch a game of other teams, you always think, ‘OK, they do this against them, this against them, but we have no idea exactly what they will do against us’ – but it is exactly the same with us and Porto. We have played different systems in the competition, we have played with different approaches in the competition, but tomorrow night it’s a home game – and being not lively at home is not possible at Anfield. We don’t want to, we want to be really in the game.
With the set-up they have they will force us. It’s not Southampton, but Southampton were a very well organised team in a similar system – they played not with five at the back, but the midfield was a similar formation, closing the gaps, winning the ball and counter-attacks. We struggled a little bit with that, so we have to be aware of everything. We have to create, but we have to be in 100 per cent defending mood in so many moments. We don’t want to give them the feeling it’s an easy place to come tomorrow night; it should be a tough place and it was for most of the teams in the Champions League, but it has to be tomorrow night again.
I am really excited, I am really looking forward to the game because it is a very, very interesting one. People around all said so many things, everybody wanted Porto – until you have Porto. We didn’t want Porto, to be honest, but when you have Porto you prepare. [People who wanted Porto] only look at numbers, names and stuff like that, but people who have a proper idea about football didn’t want to have Porto. That’s the truth. We have it, but nobody wanted Liverpool as well, by the way. It will be a tough one, but we are really looking forward to it.