Jurgen Klopp has admitted that Liverpool could find it harder to land their preferred transfer targets if they fail to qualify for the Champions League but denied he is under any extra pressure to get a top-four finish this year because of the financial implications.
Liverpool were already projected to lose about £100 million ($139m) as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but the 2019 Champions League winners and 2018 runners-up are now on course to miss out on next season’s competition.
They and Chelsea have contested two Champions League semi-finals in the last 20 years and are not accustomed to meeting in sixth and fifth but face each other on Thursday with the loser facing an uphill battle to break into the top four.
“I think a week ago we were out [of the reckoning], now we are around again so for us the challenge is clear,” said Klopp. His side have suffered six league defeats in 2021 but said Fenway Sports Group have been supportive.
“It is not that the owners called me and said that if you don’t qualify for Champions League then this or that will happen because we are all together and we all understand the situation,” he added.
But when he joined Liverpool in 2015, they were only in the Europa League and then they did not play in continental competition in his first full season.
Klopp has denied his side need a “massive rebuild” in the summer but after Diogo Jota and Thiago Alcantara were the only major acquisitions in the last two summers, Liverpool are likely to have more ambitious plans which could be stymied if they lack the money and the pulling power the Champions League offers.
“The main reason for qualifying is it is a great competition to play in,” Klopp said. “You want to excite some players to join. In the beginning, we were sitting with players who had always played in the Champions League and it was: ‘Sorry, we can only offer nothing or the Europa League.’ But it is always about finances and this year will be no different, it is always very important, absolutely.”
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Klopp faces Thomas Tuchel, a successor of his at both Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, for the first time in the Premier League and said: “He has a much better record than I had with Mainz, winning much more Bundesliga games. I think he is an outstanding coach and manager.”
Liverpool have lost their last four games at Anfield but should have a stronger squad as they seek to end their worst home run since 1923.
Alisson is available again after missing Sunday’s win at Sheffield United for compassionate reasons after the death of his father while Jota, who has not played since December after first injury and then a stomach bug, could feature.
Fabinho is also back, giving Klopp the decision whether to keep the new-look centre-back partnership of Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips or to play the Brazilian in his best position. “If we can find a way to bring Fab back in midfield that would be in some games quite helpful,” he said.
Fabinho will also be an issue in the international break when Liverpool’s three Brazil internationals and the Portuguese winger Jota could be called up by their national teams to travel to ‘red-list countries’.
Anyone returning from them has to quarantine and Klopp said: “We cannot just let the boys go and sort the situation when they come back by placing our players in a 10-day quarantine in a hotel.
"You cannot make everyone happy at this time and we have to admit the players are paid by the clubs so it means we have to be first priority.”