Jurgen Klopp warns Liverpool not to 'waste time' in getting Champions League points on the board

A 2-0 defeat at Napoli in their first group game has left the defending champions playing catch-up when they host Red Bull Salzburg on Wednesday

Soccer Football - Champions League - Liverpool Press Conference - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - October 1, 2019   Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp during the press conference   Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
Powered by automated translation

Jurgen Klopp warned Liverpool they have little margin for error in the Uefa Champions League as he voiced his determination to make them the toughest team in the world to play against.

The European champions made an unconvincing start to the defence of their title with a 2-0 defeat to Napoli two weeks ago and now host Red Bull Salzburg, 6-2 winners over Genk, with Klopp adamant they have no time to waste in their bid to qualify from Group E.

Liverpool only squeezed through to the last 16 last year, with defeats in all three away group games balanced out by a hat-trick of home victories, and Klopp is keen to ensure they are not playing catch-up again as he looks forward to Anfield’s first European game since the famous 4-0 demolition of Barcelona.

“We don’t have a lot of leeway. We can’t wait to score points. We need to get them," he said. "Salzburg will have to feel we are Liverpool and that they are in Liverpool and this is Anfield. I am only talking but we need to prove this is true. We have to start winning and we cannot waste time.”

Klopp claimed that, despite reaching the Champions League final in 2018 and winning the competition in May, his side do not start any game as favourites and said that has allowed them to overachieve.

“We will not be the favourite in any match,” he insisted. “We will always be the challenger. We will always challenge and that gives us the opportunity to exceed ourselves. The team has done that time and again and that is what we will try to do. We want to experience the same positive experience over and over again.”

Klopp is an admirer of the Austrian champions, praising their former sporting director Ralf Rangnick for their smart recruitment of emerging footballers, and has signed two of their former players, in Sadio Mane and Naby Keita.

“It is really, really tough. It is a proper unit, a young exciting team: full of power, full of excitement," he added. "The way Salzburg is playing is made to surprise bigger teams but if there is anyone in the world who knows about the way they play, it is probably me. I follow it for a long, long time.

“One of the main reasons is Ralf Rangnick, who started this project with a really smart decision from Mr [Dietrich] Mateschitz [the Salzburg chairman] because they have the best man 100 percent for that. Outstanding manager, outstanding sporting director.”

But while Salzburg are renowned for their pressing game, Klopp is determined to use his own side’s high-energy brand of football to make it difficult for them.

“We want to be the most uncomfortable opponent in world football and if we are that it will not be easy for Salzburg,” he said.

Liverpool will be without the injured pair of Xherdan Shaqiri and Joel Matip, who is in a race against time to be fit for Saturday’s clash with Leicester City, while goalkeeper Alisson Becker will not be fit to make his comeback after a calf problem.

“There are two opinions,” Klopp said. “One is Ali’s opinion and the other is the medical department’s. Training is going really well but it was a serious injury and we don’t want to take a chance.”

Without Matip and Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, who Klopp thinks is the outstanding defender in the world, will shoulder a greater burden to stop Erling Braut Haaland, the Norwegian teenager who became the third youngest player to score a Champions League hat-trick against Genk.

“Wonderful player,” Klopp said. “Very young, very confident, very quick, looks clear minded. I am really happy with all the defenders I have but he [Van Dijk] is the best in the moment.”

Mane shrugged off his recent outburst at Burnley, when he was annoyed Mohamed Salah did not pass to him while he was unmarked, to declare the two forwards are close friends.

“I think things can happen in football,” the Senegalese said. “I feel a little bit frustrated because it is football and you want to score to score more goals – you can see Manchester City score eight, six, seven. It can happen, he didn't see me and I was frustrated. We are really, really good friends.”