There are many different kinds of pressure at the highest level of club soccer. For Jurgen Klopp, the pressure of Liverpool’s ongoing Premier League title race is hugely preferred to what he felt at this point last season, when the Reds were scrapping and clawing their way through a three-team battle for a top-four finish.
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The way Klopp sees it, finishing in the top-four is Liverpool’s means of survival. Not to have done so would have severely hindered their ability to prepare for the current season, making that particular brand of pressure wholly unenjoyable and stressful. Not even making an unexpected run to last season’s UEFA Champions League final could allay fears over what might transpire if Liverpool had failed to qualify for the competition this season. It was a welcome distraction, to be sure, but one that perhaps further complicated matters domestically — quotes from the Guardian:
“The big difference for me is I want to be as successful as possible, but I am a normal employee as well, so I know the most important thing is that we need money for next year. That means we have to qualify for the Champions League. That is real pressure.
“If you are not in the Champions League, it changes everything. You can talk about this and that with the owners, but you pretty much don’t have to ask them because we don’t spend money we don’t have. Yes, this is completely different. I love this season much more.”
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With Champions League all but secured for next season already, Klopp sounds like a manager who’s playing with a boatload of house money. Whether it’s the Reds or Manchester City who lift the trophy on the final day of the season, 2018-19 will go down as another step toward re-establishing Liverpool as one of Europe’s heavy hitters.
“Last year we had proper pressure in the last part of the season. Chelsea was winning each game and we were drawing, after being 10 points ahead, and in the end we had to win the last game again to qualify for the Champions League. We had pressure. Different pressure. Champions League was like, ‘Oh my god, you are there.’ We don’t expect or take it for granted that we will be in the Champions League final again, but having the chance again is really unbelievable.
“On the other side, we have made this big step in the league. We are responsible for the league not being decided yet. In all other seasons we would have probably 60-something points as well and be fighting with five other teams for three places behind City. This year we could keep it more open for us in another position. It is all good, but now we want to carry on.”