Jürgen Klopp talked Coutinho, transfers, Champions League football and remembering his ‘first-time’ ahead of Liverpool’s match with Hoffenheim.
Jürgen Klopp was in fine form on Monday afternoon for his pre-Hoffenheim press conference as the Reds arrived in Germany ahead of the first leg of their Champions League qualifying round play-off fixture.
The two legged fixture itself has a lot riding on it for both Klopp and the club. It’s their chance to return to Europe’s elite for the first time since a disappointing 2014/15 campaign saw them crash out in the group stages and qualification would give Klopp a new platform from which to launch the next stage of his Liverpool project.
The German himself, however, wasn’t exactly feeling the heat ahead of the first-leg if his press conference is anything to go by.
“We fought really hard for this opportunity,” Klopp admitted.
“After we beat Middlesbrough in May, we knew we were fourth but we had no idea if we were seeded or not. The night we celebrated someone came in and said: ‘We’re seeded.’ Everyone was really happy and then we saw who we could still get.
“There is a job to do. For three months we’ve been looking forward to this game. We’re in a good mood. We know about the qualities of the opponent and the difficulty of the challenge but it’s just good to be here after a long time. It’s good to have the chance to do it, even though we know it will be hard.”
While Klopp’s preparations haven’t been the most ideal – a frustrating 3-3 draw with Watford combined with injuries to key players and the absence of Philippe Coutinho through either injury or petulance – the German insisted he is ready as he’ll ever be for the fixture.
“We know more about Hoffenheim that you can imagine. They are strong, we are strong and both have the big aim to go into the group stage so that makes it really exciting. They were a bit like Paris Saint-Germain (back in German football’s lower tiers) – buying many new players. I played a little part in their promotion to here.
“We try to give analysis to our players and they take it for the truth and know what’s happening with the opponent. The images we’ve shown them speak for themselves. We have an opponent who are very self confident, aggressive and who do tactical fouls – that’s part of the game. We know all about their quality.”
Klopp was also inevitably asked about the future of playmaker Philippe Coutinho and remained coy on the subject, preferring to focus on the midfielder’s injury rather than his wish to leave the club.
“Nothing has changed in the last few days. Not on one side or the other side,” he told the press.
“I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking about. He’s not available for us in the moment. That’s the main issue, if you want. He cannot play for Liverpool in this moment (due to injury), and that’s – how you can imagine – quite a blow for us.
“But we’ve known for a few days about it so we’ve had time to prepare.”
It was hoped that even with the absences of Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana and Coutinho, that Liverpool would be bolstered by the return of Daniel Sturridge to the match day squad but the Englishman is still a couple of training sessions away from making a comeback Klopp revealed.
“Sturridge is in a good way, he was really close. Two more sessions and he will be ready for the weekend.”