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UCL: Jurgen Klopp Blasts Gary Neville For Comments Over Liverpool’s Title Hopes

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Jurgen Klopp scrunched up his face as he contemplated a scenario where, on Thursday morning, Liverpool had only one competition on their radar.

There has been an argument put forward at various times this season that Liverpool’s hopes of winning the Premier League would be enhanced with a clear run. 

No distractions, no travel — just a schedule in which they train through the week then contest domestic fixtures.

Indeed Gary Neville has led the calls for Liverpool to focus on their title bid, saying: “I’m going to say it: go out against Bayern Munich. That sounds like madness.   

“Of course, you’d never play to lose a game but it will be in Liverpool’s favour if they have a clean run as they can get everyone fresh.” 

GARY NEVILLE’S COMMENT

Speaking on the Gary Neville Podcast, he said: “Getting points on the board is a big advantage. I always thought that if Liverpool could win the league this season then they’d need a clean fixture list.

“I’m going to say it: go out against Bayern Munich. That sounds like madness.

“Of course, you’d never play to lose a game but it will be in Liverpool’s favour if they have a clean run as they can get everyone fresh.

“City have got a couple of FA Cup games, where Liverpool could go five or six points in front. That’s tough to pull back in the closing weeks.

“This title race is still 50-50.”

It is not a theory to which Klopp subscribes. The odds are against Liverpool progressing here after the 0-0 draw at Anfield — Bayern captain Manuel Neuer has promised the Allianz Arena will ‘burn’ with expectancy now his team have hit form — but, for the manager, there would be no positive to take from defeat.

This, Klopp believes, is an opportunity, a chance to show the watching millions that last season’s beaten finalists are maturing into a team that can consistently be at the business end of club football’s biggest competition. 

Statements could not come much bigger than beating Bayern at their home.

Aside from that, though, there are so many spin-offs: the prestige, the finance and the momentum a thrilling win could provide. 

Liverpool’s season caught fire after they beat Napoli to progress in their final group game and, in Klopp’s eyes, there is no reason why it can’t happen again.

“We see it only as an opportunity,” said Klopp, when asked what pressure he felt. “Win it or go out. Everyone knows you can go out against Bayern and no one will say, ‘How could that happen?’ That’s how we see it. Clear. We wanted and we still want to prove our value again in Europe.

“It is really important for the club to show we are a proper threat in that competition. With all the things we did in the last few years, that is exactly what happened. We are back on track but that doesn’t mean we now go through against Bayern.

“We are in the race and we have a chance and that is all we need. We are not like kids thinking if we do not win it in the first leg we have no chance. 

“We have a chance and that is all we need. We are not out or through, but we are in it. That is what we have to use.”

They are in it and they want to win it. History and past glories are never far from the conversation with Liverpool but Klopp and his players are intent on writing chapters with their own achievements and who is to say they can’t they go all the way?

The Champions League has opened up since Paris St Germain and Real Madrid were eliminated, so Klopp bristled when the point — which has been chiefly made by Gary Neville — was put to him that Liverpool would be better out of a tournament from which they earned more than £60m last season.

“It is so easy to sit in an office or a studio and talk about things like that,” said Klopp. “All the pundits come from Manchester United. 

“We say the best way to go through a season is to go out of all the cup competitions early? You do that and the same people go for you like mad.

“It’s like, ‘You are disrespectful to the competition’. Now it is closer to the end of the season and it is allowed to go out of the Champions League without even trying to go through? That’s really mad. That’s the reason why they don’t have a job on the sideline — one of the reasons.

“No criticism but it’s a big difference to be in charge or to talk about somebody in charge. We all have to qualify constantly for the Champions League. That’s what gives us the money to improve to do the next steps.”

To emphasise the point, Klopp went back to December and the do-or-die clash with Napoli, which was decided by a solitary Mohamed Salah goal. 

The financial implications were not mentioned at the time but, clearly, the economic consequences of that success was huge.

“I’m not sure how much but it was (worth) a lot of money in one game,” said Klopp, who will be without the injured Guinea midfielder Naby Keita. 

“I didn’t think a second before that game, ‘Oh my God! We have to earn this money for the club!’ We only wanted to go through. 

“After we got through it was like, ‘Wow! That’s proper!!’ It is a competition that gives you a chance to make money and we have to be in it as long as possible because we have to improve the situation for the club. If it happens, it will be a great night. If it doesn’t happen, it is not the end of the world.’

True but, deep down, he would be low if Liverpool — who need to arrest a sequence of four consecutive away defeats in Europe — fall at this flight.

He is yet to deliver a trophy since arriving at Anfield in October 2015 but Klopp believes his team are getting closer. If they fall short this season, he says it will have nothing to do with struggling with expectations.

“The pressure and titles? If you come to England people in the pub when they meet before a match ask the same questions and receive the same answers,” said Klopp. 

“We don’t set that pressure. We want to become champions, we are not stupid, but we don’t experience this pressure.”

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