Jürgen Klopp believes that his players can enjoy their football despite the pressure that comes with qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
In regards to Champions League qualification, Liverpool head into their final game of the season at home against Middlesbrough with the chance to get the job done without relying on other teams.
Due to Liverpool’s lack of involvement in the FA Cup this season, the Reds have had a game or two in hand over their rivals for a few months but on Tuesday evening, Arsenal and Manchester City caught up.
The Gunners beat Sunderland 2-0 at home despite a mass exodus at the Emirates as frustrated fans voiced their feelings towards Arsene Wenger. Man City beat West Brom 3-1 to move above Liverpool into third and it will likely mean the Reds won’t be in third place again this season.
Manchester United also have a game in hand over Liverpool but seeing as José Mourinho’s side is eight points behind Jürgen Klopp’s and cannot finish in the top four this season, they’re a bit irrelevant at this point.
Liverpool are one win away from a top four finish. The success of the 2016/17 season rests on the ability of the players that are selected to get the job done and judging what was on show at the London Stadium – they’re up for it.
And judging from what Jürgen Klopp has to say, his players aren’t going to stop enjoying their football because of the pressure.
“That’s our job to do [and] I really thought the boys did really well,” Klopp told Liverpoolfc.com after the game at the London Stadium.
“We spoke about it before and said ‘is there really pressure on us or is it only what people will make of it?’, because we always have pressure, we are used to it.
“We are professional football players or managers. If we always want to win games then we have always this pressure.
“There is still space to enjoy football and I saw a lot of joy. There was a lot of good football in, [what may have seemed] from outside a difficult situation, but we did really well and we helped ourselves with our best tools, with football.”
A lot was made about how fluid Liverpool looked after lacking incision for several weeks. This increase in creativity had a lot to do with Klopp’s decision to change to a 4-4-2 diamond Coutinho in midfield and Daniel Sturridge up front.
The English forward broke the deadlock when a well-timed run was superbly found by Philippe Coutinho with a pinpoint through ball.
“Start, not good, end of first half, lucky, but we scored a wonderful goal and learnt extremely [well] from the first half,” he said.
“In the second half we changed a few things, went more direct, created much more difficult-to-defend situations for them, had shots and finishes from everywhere, pretty much.
“The start of the second half – that was real football. We decided the game, we controlled it, and now we’ve got the three points. Fantastic.
“Now we have to recover and then prepare to do our best against Middlesbrough again.”
If Liverpool do finish in the top four, Champions League football is not secured as a qualifier in the summer will have to be overcome first and the likes of Napoli could stand in their way. But let’s cross that bridge when we get there!