Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has insisted that his side are not favourites to go through to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals when they face Manchester City in Tuesday’s quarter-finals second leg at the Etihad Stadium.
Liverpool won the first leg 3-0 at Anfield last Wednesday and just need to avoid conceding three to reach the semi-finals.
“First of all, I’m not interested in these kinds of labels – favourites and underdogs. It is common sense to say if you play in the Champions League [knockout] stage against the winners of the Premier League, that you are not the favourite. That’s what we were last week,” Klopp said during his pre-match press conference.
“For me, the whole game is about these two legs, so I am not interested in what changed. How it always is in football, you have to go into the lead, you want to score goals, and in the end the final whistle will decide who has won the game. That didn’t change. We are only in the lead, no problem with that and it is better than I could have expected – but we all know, and I think you all know, there is still a lot of work to do. That’s why we are here and not thinking about who is now favourite or whatever. It’s all about going to the next round – that’s what we will try to do tomorrow.”
Manchester City also lost 3-2 in the Premier League to Manchester United at the Etihad on Saturday but Klopp warned that City are still dangerous.
“When we played City, when we lost here 5-0 at the beginning of the season, everybody saw the quality of City; even though we were one man down, the quality of City was clear. It was clear when you saw the preparation for the season, the signings,” he added.
“We all know about Pep, the best coach or manager in the world, so it was clear they would be outstanding. But there is no perfect football team in the world, the games do not give you the chance to be perfect. You have moments, situations, days and sometimes only minutes, but they’ve had it most consistently and that’s why they’ll be champions at the end of the season.
“I knew before they can concede goals and if you can concede goals you can lose, that’s how it is. It is a tough moment for all teams in football, like for us as well – even when we won the first leg, we had to go to Everton for the derby and it was not easy. There are a lot of problems around, but I don’t think anybody thinks about problems in the moment – it is big excitement about the opportunity and the chance to go to the next round. It is not fixed so far, but I don’t need that. I don’t think that Barcelona thinks they are already through to the next round, because that’s football. You always have the chance to respond, you always have the chance to strike back, and that’s what City have the chance to do – and we have the chance to play really, really good again.
“To win the game? Why not. I think most of the people think, ‘OK, Liverpool will maybe go through’ but on the other hand they think, ‘They will probably lose here’ and all that stuff. Nothing is fixed. We have the chance to win, it will be difficult but I think when you start a football game that should be the target.
“To go through [up to] here you need to have at least similar numbers and to go to the next round you need to be better after that. That’s the chance we are working for. I still cannot forget when we played Middlesbrough last year and we knew we would be fourth in the league and qualification felt fantastic. And then we got Hoffenheim and it felt it was pretty tough. We were so excited about the opportunity to be part of the Champions League and now being here, playing against for me still the best team in the world at the moment, it’s a big job. But, of course, an opportunity as well.
“I don’t think that City will be worse next year. They had a fantastic season, an outstanding season, but they are human beings, thank God. They had now two results which maybe nobody really expected but we had to play our best to bring that and United for sure. [United were] a little bit lucky using the situation in the first half – everybody knows [City] could have scored five or six, it was an outstanding football game. And then, if the door is still open, United of course has the strength to go through.
“United didn’t have a game during the week, City made a few changes, that’s how it is. That’s our life, it’s easy from outside to say they are vulnerable or whatever. They’re human beings so sometimes because the quality of the opponents – we were strong, United were strong second half – it will always be possible. But I don’t think too many teams should hope that they will have big problems next season.
“They do it always. I would say that’s how City play. If you saw the first half against United… in a normal game for City, against one of the best teams in the world in United, they could have scored six goals, or maybe should have, four at least. That’s their quality, so it will not be a surprise for us.
“We have to be at our best again, that’s how it is. If what everyone expected would have happened then we would already be half out and have lost the first game against the best team in the Premier League. We would have lost at Anfield and come here more or less to keep our pride, to show some kind of reaction.
“Now we are in that situation, so it is our job to try with all we have to use that situation because the boys created it with an outstanding performance, very, very mature. I’m still excited about the opportunity and not anything else. I’m really looking forward to the game, it will be again a real football game. And that’s good.
“It’s pretty clear what the perfect game scenario [is] – if we score five then it would be difficult for Manchester City, but I know it’s not really likely. It’s all about being stable in the game in all the different moments, still being brave, being lively, being high energy, trying to cause them as many problems as possible and all these things.”
“It will be football, it’s all about football, but that’s normal. If we go through, if City go through, then waiting is Real Madrid probably, Barcelona probably, and Bayern Munich probably. It will be quite intense as well. Because it’s the Champion League, it’s the best team competition in the world, and that’s why it should be difficult to go through. We knew that when we started, I told you about the excitement we felt when we were qualified, now we are here. [Our] excitement didn’t stop since then, so we are still really happy to be part of the competition and we want to stay in it. That’s all.”
“There is a mood around [the club]. The experience I don’t think really helps, you can ask yourself if the experiences of your grandfather helped you a lot in your life? I’m not sure. You have to make your own experiences, but in the club it’s like this that the mood is special in these moments.”
“You can feel it, with the short period in between the games it’s never really easy to be part of the normal life and feel and hear what people are saying about the excitement and importance of the competition, but you feel that European nights for LFC are special – the expectation’s big. But we are not more experienced than the City players in this competition.
“We have been with a few of the boys, two years ago in the Europa League final. It’s an experience [but] when you lose a final it’s not an experience you need or you use a lot. We try to do our best to gain experience, to get experience, to collect information and all that stuff. That’s what we do and that’s what we did so far.Tomorrow night it’s again a big test for both teams, of course. It will be interesting to see how we will deal with that, 100 per cent.”