Jurgen Klopp has apologised for spoiling Liverpool fans’ “holiday”…but insisted his side can handle the pressure of needing a win in Salzburg.
A hugely disappointing Champions League draw with Napoli – after the Italians frustrated and shackled the Reds with a regimented, determined defence display – means Klopp’s side must get a point in Salzburg to be sure of reaching the knock out phase.
The Anfield boss joked that many fans were hoping for a holiday at the Christmas market in the Austrian town in December, but now there is real pressure riding on the final group fixture…at the worst possible time.
Had Liverpool won here they would have qualified with a game to spare and topped the group, meaning they could rest players during an intense December run of games.
But Klopp argued that it is ALWAYS the hard way for Liverpool. “It is still open, the group is still open,” he said. “It’s ok, not ideal, but ok.
“I don’t want to say we need intensity (in every game,, but now we have it already – can you tell me in all my time here when it was easy?
Last year we had to win 1-0 against Napoli in the final game, and I can not remember a bigger pressure than that.
“I know how human beings are and I am sure they were hoping we could win here so we could make a holiday game in Salzburg or something like that. But it didn’t happen, I am sorry – it really it never happens. There is always something on it.”
Liverpool will still top their group if they win the game, but if they lose then they will head into the wastelands of the Europa League.
And there was more bad news on a drab night of football, as Fabinho left the ground wearing a protective cast boot, after picking up what seemed to be an ankle and ligament injury early in the game.
He is a key player for the Reds and there are fears he could be sidelined for some time, but Klopp struck an optimistic note:
“I don’t want to say what I expect because I hope it is not serious, but we know more maybe tomorrow, maybe day after tomorrow.”
Liverpool at least salvaged something from a disappointing night, when Dejan Lovren equalised Dries Mertens opening goal with a fine second half header, but Klopp remains frustrated that he can not now rest players in the final game.
And that leaves him facing a huge December, with a game every three days, as they take on the Champions League, World Club Ciup, Carabao Cup and Premier League.