Klopp: Top-4 finish is ‘massive task’ for Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp said Liverpool’s Champions League elimination has given them a “massive task” to salvage their season in the Premier League and the Anfield manager said three games in a week against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal will make or break their hopes.
Karim Benzema’s second-half goal — his 13th goal in his last eight Champions League knockout games — was enough to secure a 1-0 round-of-16, second-leg win for Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu and an overall 6-2 aggregate victory.
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Liverpool’s early exit from the competition means they can no longer win silverware this season and, currently sitting in sixth position in the Premier League, their only chance of salvaging some kind of success from the campaign lies in sealing a top-four finish and qualification for next season’s Champions League.
With fourth-placed Tottenham six points clear of Liverpool, and Newcastle United two points ahead of the 2022 Champions League runners-up with a game in hand, Klopp admitted that his players must now focus on finishing fourth.
“We want to be in the Champions League every year and it is a massive task for us [to finish fourth] and we know that,” Klopp said. “After the international break, we have a proper week ahead of us — City, Chelsea and Arsenal. That will probably define what we get out of the season.
“People might say we lost it at Bournemouth [with a 1-0 defeat], but that is a decisive week and we hope the boys come back healthy and early enough from international duty and we can try it.
“Our job is to squeeze absolutely everything out of the season that is possible. It has been a strange one so far. But losing at Bournemouth has put us under pressure because, with three more points, other teams could really feel our breath.”
Having said before the game that Liverpool only had a one percent chance of overturning their three-goal first-leg deficit, Klopp admitted that his side failed to perform to the level required to achieve an unexpected result.
“To come here with three goals difference, you need a special performance and we didn’t show a special performance,” he said. “It was a good performance, but Real were the team in control. Ali [Becker] made two sensational saves to keep us in the game, but Madrid was the better team and the right team went through to the next round.
“With the history we have in the competition, we should be starting every season with the idea of winning it. We reached the final a few times, three times in last few years, and if you want to win the competition you have to be outstanding and we weren’t tonight.
“Whoever wants to win it, they must beat Real, Man City, Napoli, who beat us and are a really good team, and Bayern Munich. But Real Madrid with their history are a really strong team and they can do it.”