Jurgen Klopp concedes Liverpool’s Champions League chances are all but gone

The Reds were champions of Europe in 2019 and of the English top flight last year, but are struggling for a European spot this term

Karl Matchett
Friday 07 May 2021 13:58
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Jurgen Klopp has acknowledged that reigning Premier League champions Liverpool are unlikely to make the top four this season - even if they end the campaign on a five-game win streak.

The Reds fell out of title contention midway through the season as they battled injuries to several key defensive players, with Manchester City set to supplant them as league winners with their next victory.

But even the consolation of a Champions League spot will evade the Reds this term, Klopp says, as the Reds have not dealt well enough with the challenges of the season.

Liverpool are seventh in the table heading into the home straight of the campaign, seven points off fourth-placed Chelsea with a game in hand, having dropped two points late on against each of Leeds and Newcastle in their last two outings. Following that last draw the manager said the Reds didn’t deserve to get into the Champions League, which they won only two years ago, but he insists his team will keep fighting in case those above them slip up.

“Yes, that’s easy to say [we’ll need to win every game], and even then it’s not guaranteed,” he said in a press conference on Friday ahead of the weekend match against Southampton.

“We drew the last two so it didn’t help. I’m not sure there is still a chance but we’ll try to make sure that if there is one, we will be there.”

On why his side have fallen so far short this term, Klopp pointed to the long-term absences of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip in defence, with Fabinho then being shifted from midfield to centre-back as cover before suffering his own injury. Jordan Henderson, Alisson Becker and Thiago Alcantara have all been sidelined at different times of the campaign, too.

“That’s easy: we had too many injuries in key positions. I know people see it’s an excuse but when we lost our full defence, it felt like when you break your leg. You can still limp, but then you had to transform our midfielders into defenders and that pretty much broke our spine.

“We needed to be nearly perfect [the two years before] and we needed the situation to be nearly perfect. In the moment it’s not perfect, the league is too strong for us.

“We could be fifth or fourth of course, we should have done better in specific moments, but with the title we couldn’t deal with the injuries as well as we wanted.”

Klopp confirmed that there will be late decisions on a few players’ fitness before the Saints game.

Captain Henderson is not in team training yet despite training outdoors, but centre-back Nat Phillips is back to full fitness.

On last weekend’s postponed game with Manchester United, Klopp backed those protesting peacefully in getting across their message, but condemned the acts which crossed the line, as some fans broke into the stadium while others fought with police officers.

“I’m an absolute believer in democracy, that means I’m happy that people want to tell their opinion. But I know that in these situations it’s not too often that nobody gets hurt.

“That’s why I said a week before when pundits were asking for protests, I said we had to calm down and ask for the right things.

“I heard some policemen got injured and these kinds of things should not happen for sure.”

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