James Milner

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Klopp: ‘It means so much’ to Liverpool players

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Few fans and pundits gave Liverpool even a half a chance to come back and tie Barcelona, better yet win the match in regulation. And yet, that’s what Liverpool did.

Following Liverpool’s 4-0 win over Barcelona to advance to the UEFA Champions League Final, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp praises his team for their fight, effort, and heart to multiple media outlets.

The whole game was too much. It was overwhelming,” Klopp said to BT Sport following the match. “We played against maybe the best team in world. Winning is difficult but winning with a clean sheet, I don’t know they did it. It’s unbelievable.

“I saw James Milner crying on the pitch after the game. It means so much to all of us. It’s the best phase of football. There are more important things in the world. But creating this emotional atmosphere together is so special. It’s all about the players.

“The mix of potential and unbelievable heart is just a mix I never saw before. You have to be confident in a game like this. Divock and Shaq didn’t play a lot. Putting a performance in like that, it was so important. It shows what’s possible in football. It’s so nice. It’s really nice.”

Despite many Liverpool fans feeling miserable after Barcelona’s 3-0 first leg win, Klopp was feeling confident. He seemed to know that if Liverpool could just be a little more clinical, they’d be just fine. It turns out he was right.

Liverpool didn’t just play heavy metal soccer with a high line for the first 15 minutes of the game, it played that way for all 90 minutes, and Barcelona couldn’t keep up.

“Things got on top of us after those two quick goals,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde told reporters. “We didn’t manage to get on the scoresheet and they rolled us over really. It’s a terrible result for our fans and for ourselves. It’s really, really unfortunate, but credit to Liverpool.

“We tried to sit a little bit deeper, but the tie ended for us with the fourth goal. We couldn’t respond.”

But even with Liverpool on the front foot all night, Klopp admitted it took some ingenuity and creativity to break Barcelona down. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s quick thinking and both of Divock Origi’s finishes took both skill and a confident mentality, while Georginio Wijnaldum showcased the never-say-die attitude that is a hallmark of Klopp’s sides.

“We had to be serious,” Klopp said. “But we needed to be cheeky as well. It was necessary. Barcelona defend predictable things well. But you need to be unpredictable at moments. I saw the ball flying in the goal, I didn’t see the corner. I didn’t see who took the corner. Ben Woodburn said ‘what happened?’”

How will Barcelona, Liverpool line up?

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Ahead of the massive UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg between Barcelona and Liverpool on Wednesday, there is plenty of talk about how both teams will lineup.

[ MORE: Can Spurs beat Ajax?

Jurgen Klopp may go for a slightly more conservative approach in midfield, while Ernesto Valverde could do the same. However, both managers will want to set the tone and with Barca at home it is expected that Coutinho, Suarez and Messi will all start.

Barcelona have some great options on the bench with Ousmane Dembele, Sergi Roberto and Arturo Vidal among them, and Barca are likely to line up their most experienced group for this huge test as they aim to cope with Liverpool’s jet-fuelled offense.

As for Liverpool, it would not be a surprise to see the more defense-minded James Milner start in midfield ahead of Naby Keita considering Klopp knows they will be favorites for the second leg at Anfield and a draw is a decent result in the first leg. With Firmino struggling with an injury, the Brazilian forward didn’t play against Huddersfield on Friday but has trained ahead of the game in Barcelona. If Firmino isn’t fit, Daniel Sturridge and Xherdan Shaqiri are ready to step up.

Below is a look at the projected lineups for both teams.


Barcelona

—– Ter Stegen —–

— Semedo — Pique — Lenglet — Alba —

—- Rakitic —- Busquets —- Arthur —-

—- Messi —- Suarez —- Coutinho —-


Liverpool

—– Alisson —–

— Alexander-Arnold — Lovren — Van Dijk — Robertson —

— Henderson — Wijnaldum — Milner —

— Salah — Firmino — Mane —

Liverpool handle business in Wales (video)

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  • Wiljnaldum scores opener off corner
  • Milner converts Salah-won penalty
  • Cardiff cannot finish chances

Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner scored to put Liverpool back atop the Premier League following a 2-0 defeat of Cardiff City on Sunday.

Neil Warnock‘s Bluebirds had their chances but simply lacked quality in finish. They remain three points back of Brighton and Hove Albion in the race to avoid relegation.

Liverpool is a point ahead of Man City before Wednesday’s Manchester Derby at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino broke the Cardiff back line, but Neil Etheridge closed down to help force the Brazilian to fire over the goal.

It was mostly Liverpool’s game, but Oumar Niasse need nearly luck into an in-tight finish after Victor Camarasa flubbed a shot into his path. Alisson Becker tipped it over the bar.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Wijnaldum put the Reds on top about 12 minutes into the second half when he wrapped his right foot around a bounding set piece to send it flying past Etheridge.

Henderson’s would-be goal was blazed over the goal in the 61st minute. It wasn’t quite a sitter, but there was certainly some beckoning goal.

Cardiff’s Sean Morrison missed his second significant chance of the match off a 64th minute corner kick.

Roger East awarded a penalty kick to Liverpool when Morrison manhandled Mohamed Salah in the box. Milner rarely misses from the spot.

Etheridge made a tremendous save on Salah in the 90th.

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Milner: Liverpool’s style, flair mean little without trophy

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The only point at which Liverpool can be considered one of the world’s best teams is if/when the current squad wins a trophy, according to Reds midfielder/defender James Milner.

[ MORE: Messi scores 2 in first 20 minutes to sink Man United (video) ]

Milner admitted this week that it’s been nice for Liverpool to receive plaudits from all over the world regarding their exciting brand of attacking soccer, but it matters very little if they can’t soon secure a first major trophy under Jurgen Klopp.

Indeed, Porto manager Sergio Conceicao, whose side will host the Reds in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday, has joined the chorus in praising Liverpool for playing the game in a way which is very pleasing on the eye.

“I like the Liverpool dynamics. I like the Liverpool game model,” he said this week. “I like the way they play and the way they are with the ball, and also without it. It is similar to how I see football and in a lot of these moments in a game they are the best team in the world.”

[ MORE: Unplayable Messi reacts as Barca “finally” returns to UCL semis ]

It’s the last little bit against which Milner pushed back — “the best team in the world.” Whether it’s the Champions League or the Premier League, only a shiny piece of silverware can validate such a title — quotes from the Guardian:

“That’s a nice compliment, and you get those compliments by playing good football over a sustained period. But to be that, you have to win trophies. That’s something we haven’t done yet and something we are trying to do this season. There are a lot of good teams left in the Champions League and it’s down to us to prove that and win these games and hopefully win at least one trophy this season. But there are a lot of good teams between us and the last game of the season. We have to keep improving and keep playing as we have been at the moment.”

Liverpool lead Porto 2-0 after their victory in the first leg at Anfield last week.

Joe Gomez ready for Liverpool return

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Joe Gomez has handed Liverpool another huge boost in their quest to win the Premier League title.

The England international, 21, has been out since suffering a fracture to his lower left leg during a win at Burnley in December.

Initially, Gomez was only going to be out for a few weeks but complications have since arrived and he has had to have surgery and further treatment to rectify the issue.

Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg at Porto on Wednesday (Liverpool have a 2-0 lead from the first leg), Jurgen Klopp revealed Gomez is now available for selection and has travelled with the team to Portugal.

“Absolutely [he looks strong]. Ox and Joe both did really well at Leicester, it was a brilliant game by all of the boys, to be honest, I watched it back. It looked really good,” Klopp said. “It’s clear they still need time to get full match fitness but it’s nice to have them back and now Joe first as an option. He played right full-back, we need him as this option as well. We all know he played a wonderful season at the centre-half position until his injury, but he can play both and it’s good to have him.”

Klopp now has a lot of options in defense, as Joel Matip has stepped in and played pretty well alongside Virgil Van Dijk over the past few months, as losing Gomez for a pivotal stretch of the season was a big concern for Liverpool. Even though Matip has filled in well, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson are clearly Liverpool’s first-choice back four.

With Dejan Lovren out with illness, getting Gomez back is a big deal for Liverpool as the composed center back was developing a superb relationship with VVD in the heart of Liverpool’s defense. However, with only TAA as a right back option and the likes of James Milner having to fill in there at times, it seems likely Gomez will rotate in that full back role in the final weeks of the season rather than disrupt the Matip-VVD partnership.

Mark this down as another big plus for Liverpool in their quest to win the league title for the first time since 1989-90.

In other injury news, Klopp also confirmed that Lovren is out of the game against Porto, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain needs more fitness work, Adam Lallana has returned to training and Jordan Henderson is fit after a slight ankle knock against Chelsea.

All in all, good news for Liverpool as they enter a season-defining 10 days.