Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is ready to rally his players around the enmity of their doubters.
Klopp is used to that, and saying these words to cameras after Liverpool beat RB Leipzig 2-0 in Budapest on Tuesday was probably like sliding into a favorite old hoodie.
“For two years we were really good and this year we have some problems, that’s absolutely normal and the talk starts, that’s fine,” Klopp said following the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie. “A lot of people expected us to slip again just because of the situation and the boys didn’t and that’s what I’m really happy about.”
[ MORE: Three things from Leipzig – Liverpool ]
The reigning Premier League champions have struggled in recent weeks but looked pretty good in a return to the UEFA Champions League, a competition the club celebrates on the same level as the PL.
Liverpool exited the Champions League group stage in first place in its group and the Premier League, but a 10-match league run with just two wins to go with five losses has seen the Reds slip to sixth place. That’s 13 points behind leaders Man City, who have a match-in-hand.
"It was the game we wanted, it was the game we needed."
"A lot of people were waiting for us to slip again. Tonight the boys didn't."
A great night for Jürgen Klopp after a tough few weeks! 🙌
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 16, 2021
“It was the game we wanted. It was a game we needed tonight,” Klopp said. “Leipzig can be a real monster, the way they play in the Bundesliga, they overrun teams, they are really physical, pretty much good in everything and tonight we controlled them in an exceptional way to be honest. They had their moments, of course, because of the quality they have. We played a really good game and we got the result we deserved, so fine.”
Klopp was then asked whether this marks a return to the Mentality Monsters that won the Premier League running away last season.
“It was a tough game,” he said. “We had only two days since the last game and two days in between and a long flight. You cannot build mentality giants in one game. Tonight we were good. We deserved to win, so nice but It’s only the first leg, we know that all. I know that a lot of people were waiting for us to slip again and tonight the boys didn’t, so I’m really happy.”
The Reds have three PL matches before the second leg beginning with a big Merseyside derby with Everton on Saturday. A loss would be their third-straight in PL action at Anfield and fifth-straight home league match without a win.
The flip side? A win then sees relegation-threatened Sheffield United away and Fulham at home on the docket ahead of Leipzig’s trip to Anfield (assuming they are allowed).